The Dangers in My Heart – 03 – A New Feeling

Kyou ends up in the nurse’s office with a headache the same time Anna is there with a stomachache (likely due to too many sweets). When she notices he’s staring then realizes it’s Kyou, she doesn’t seem to mind, since she knows him. She also offers him a Tylenol, but the only cup by the sink was the same one she used, which means the risk of an indirect kiss.

As dark and brooding as some of Kyou’s thoughts are, he at least knows better than to blurt out his … less savory thoughts. His male classmates, not so much. They’re a bunch of creeps, and when one of them gives him a note to pass to Anna, he assumes it’s something dirty and swaps it out with a drawing of Anna he made. The drawing absolutely makes Anna’s day.

More of the boys’ talk about how girl takes your hand and what that says about their preferred sex position actually gets to Kyou, when Anna counts her candy, notices one is missing, and takes Kyou’s hand from the top, which according to the dumb article means they like to take control. Turns out the missing candy was in her pocket.

When Kyou is hit by a basketball in P.E., he’s ready to aggressively throw it back … until he sees it’s Anna’s ball. She tosses it back and she smiles and thanks him. But later, while she’s looking at him, she gets hit right in the nose with a pass, and her nose starts bleeding profusely.

Continuing a trend of his actions not matching his thoughts, Kyou’s body moves on its own to the nurse’s office. He wonders what he’s doing there, but after hearing Anna talk on the phone with her mom through stifling tears, saying tomorrow’s photoshoot will have to be postponed, it finally hits him: he doesn’t want to murder this girl … he likes her.

I’m glad after three episodes he’s finally both aware of and seemingly accepting of this fact. Hopefully he can make more progress getting closer to Anna, since the fact she framed his drawing and keeps it in her purse, among other gestures, indicates she likes him too.

But for now, Kyou keeps stealthily doing little things to support her, like when she runs out of tissues from crying so much and he leaves packets of tissues at her spot in the library (as well as at all the other seats, so as not to seem suspicious).

I imagine Anna knows who left the tissues, and since she’s done crying, she instead uses them to wipe potato chip grease from her fingers. This smiling, happily snacking Yamada Anna is what Kyou likes to see most, which is good because he’s proven quite capable of making her smile.

The Dangers in My Heart – 02 – Battle Formation

Despite his silent objections, Yamada Anna continues to intrude upon Kyoutarou’s “holy space”, i.e. the library of loneliness. But he can’t deny it’s never a dull moment with Anna in there stuffing her face. When she has a complicated color-changing marshmallow candy set that requires water, she ends up spilling a bunch on the floor. He gets a cup for her, but by then she’s already mixing the candy by the sink.

When it gets hot, Kyou (along with the other boys) observe the girls sweating in their whites shirts, which is mitigated by fanning. The next time she’s snacking in the library, she asks to borrow his fan, which she says smells nice, then invites him to come in close and smell it too. Basically any excuse to get the little guy closer to Anna will do.

When Anna gets a text saying her “boyfriend” Chihiro (who is actually her closest female friend) is en route, she hides under the table where Kyou is sitting. Chihiro realizes pretty quickly the statuesque lass is under there, and lures her out by complimenting her. The reason Anna snacks alone is that Chihiro is allergic. She may be a space cadet, but she tries to be considerate to those she cares about.

More and more, Anna is making it clear that Kyoutarou is one of those people. When he gets guff from the boy trying to date Anna (who was also the first to fish his bike out of the river) for writing “Yamada” on tombstones on the class’ haunted house mural, he owns up to it so the real culprit (Hana, a girl) doesn’t get guff from the girls. But then Hana says she was just using common names like Yamada and Kobayashi. Anna realizes that Kyou was covering for Hana, and apologize for putting him in a spot.

Speaking of spots, Anna will be the class ghost for the cultural festival. She sidles up to Kyou at the sinks, and wonders if she’d look creepier with blood on her face. As with the mural, Kyou can’t help but suggest the right way to make something look spookier, and Anna leans in so he can apply the blood-colored paint to her face. All he can manage is a single spot before bailing from embarrassment.

On the day of the festival, Anna and her friends get picked up by three lads, but as Kyou observes, the girls are in a tight “battle formation” to protect each other from handy dudes.

Kyou tries to swing around to keep tailing them, and ends up encountering Anna, who had strayed from her group. She and Kyou go in the classroom where there’s a map of the town from 80 years ago. Anna points out her house, asks Kyou where his is, then draws the distance with her fingers, touching his in the process.

When he asks if it’s ok to take a picture (of the map) she grabs his phone and takes a selfie of the two of them. Even if he maintains Anna will be his top “victim” in some rhetorical spree of violence he envisions committing, the bottom line is that Kyou is elated beyond measure to have such a photo, just as Anna is more than happy to provide it.

The Dangers in My Heart – 01 (First Impressions) – It Does Matter

Kyoutarou Ichikawa (I’ll be shortening to Kyou) is, by his own admission, “messed up in the head”, reading horror stories and dreaming of murdering his classmates, chief among them the statuesque class idol Yamada Anna. Which is to say, he’s a fairly typical teenage boy in middle school.

But despite his best efforts to be aloof and scornful, the more he learns about Anna by watching her, the more he learns she’s an endearing space cadet, and he finds himself wanting to help or support her in little ways, starting by lending her a box cutter.

Kyou also seems oddly attuned to Anna in ways others aren’t, like when Anna’s poster has been replaced by her friend’s and she seems upset and even breaks down into tears. Kyou tears his own group’s poster to get everyone’s attention.

But at least this time, Kyou’s actions aren’t necessary. Whatever Anna was upset about, she isn’t anymore once she correctly spots an Osprey helicopter in the sky. Kyou just comes off like a poster-slashing weirdo to everyone else.

When one of his male classmates (who prefers bigger girls) asks to meet the girl he likes to meet him in the library, Anna is a clear third wheel, while Kyou is invisible behind the bookshelves. When Kyou drops his book, Anna actually covers for him by saying there’s a cat in the room.

Kyou meows, Anna goes to investigate, and gets him to meow along with her like two cats fighting. The couple-to-be end up alone and hit it off, leaving the library side-by-side in spirited conversation about cats. This skit shows that Anna and Kyou can make a good team.

Kyou learns that his #1 Murder Victim modeled in the latest issue of Ciel, he heads to the bookstore, but not in his school uniform. There he finds Anna there, also in disguise, desperately trying to get random customers to notice her in the magazine. She even prepares for autographs!

Kyou does by the magazine, but when he sees the photos of Anna, she looks like a stranger, and thus the little bit of distance they had closed gets wider (though he does fish it out of the trash later). It’s understandable that an outcast teenager with few friends would feel like he and someone like Anna were completely different species.

That discouragement builds when he spots Anna with a similarly tall lad. He assumes it’s her boyfriend and declares that “that’s how it is”—those of the same species tend to pair up. But far from her BF, he’s actually a guy she’s not interested in, pretending not to know what LINE or social media are.

When the lad, who turns out to be a cad, grabs Anna’s damn arm when she tries to leave and freakin’ insists she give him her contact info (always great start to a relationship!) Kyou considers walking on by. It doesn’t matter, he doesn’t care, he thinks. But it does matter, and he does care…about Anna!

So once again Kyou does something dumb and impulsive and very much not in his best interest: tossing his bike into the river! It makes such a commotion, the exchange of information seems to have been interrupted. Anna didn’t see it, but one of her friends did and reports what Kyou did.

When he explains he “hit the gas when he should have hit the brake” Anna has the biggest laugh and smile of the whole episode, and tells Kyou he’s funny. It seemed to me in the moment that she knew why he did what he did, and is grateful for it.

But the fact that Kyou can tell that Anna had no interest in the cad hitting on her means he’s not the demented psychopath he builds himself up to be in his dark thoughts. His heart is a lot lighter and warmer he thought, and continuing to interact with the tall, adorable Anna will only reinforce that truth.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 13 (Fin) – No Complaints

The twelfth episode was so good, thirteen was going to be all gravy…as long as it didn’t undo what twelve started. That’s the one fatal mistake it could make that would sour the entire season for me. At the same time, I didn’t want the epilogue to be too fluffy. This show was so good at really digging into its characters and making them think and act in believable and compelling ways.

The episode delivered on both of these conditions, and then some. Yes Tomo and Jun are on the same page regarding their feelings, but they don’t just ease straight into a GF/BF situation at the drop of a hat. This is a transitional period, with all its excitement for what’s to come, and a few speed bumps along the way.

Jun is so relaxed, she’s so nervous, and she and Jun are getting along so well, Tomo confides to Misuzu and Carol that she feels like she lost to Jun for harboring anxieties. when they know all too well he’s harboring them to but sometimes better at hiding them. She wants to throw him off balance to even the playing field. Misuzu suggests they see a romantic film.

Now that the confessions are out of the way, it’s great to really see Jun take to boyfriend mode with aplomb. He may be self-critical, but his direct honest manner is part of what made Tomo fall for him, and that’s on display as he praises her cute look, gives her “T” earrings for Christmas, and immediately dons the muffler she knitted for him.

Throughout the date, Tomo notices that Jun is incredibly focused. He softens when saying that he never really connected with romance movies before, and considers that falling for Tomo made them resonate more. When they’re about to part ways, Tomo has to make a move, and she does: inviting herself to Jun’s house.

What ensues is a wonderfully awkward and all-too-relatable scene of two people who like each other, but have never been in this type of situation, kinda freezing with nervousness and self-consciousness. Tomo again asks to sit next to Jun on his bed, but eventually snaps and tells him she came there for a sole purpose: to kiss him.

Jun admits he wants to to that stuff too, but her father told him he couldn’t go out with her until he defeated him. This is an entirely unfair bargain, as even Jun is no match for Tomo’s dad, a legit master and gigantic dude. Even her dad seems to know he kinda fucked up royally, but you can tell he did it out of love and not a desire to control her life.

But miserable as he is (Tomo confronts him and then tells him she hates him—perhaps a first in their relationship as father and daughter) he can’t take back what he said. A warrior’s word being their bond aside, Jun has heard the challenge and can’t ignore it.

While Tomo was being coy about her intentions to, in so many words, “spice things up” by trying to “beat” Jun to a kiss, Jun makes a rookie BF mistake by keeping something extremely important (her dad’s challenge) from her. Everyone (including her dad) erred, but she and Jun are well-developed enough that you totally understand why they erred.

In the midst of all this relationship turmoil, Misuzu and Carol are left out of the lurch, as Tomo doesn’t contact them for all of winter break. Again, this is rookie relationship behavior, getting so involved that your time with your friends dwindles or vanishes. It’s something Tomo can learn from, and in the meantime, both the girls and Kousuke are willing to hear her problems and offer possible solutions.

Misuzu suspects that Tomo isn’t content to watch the two most important men in her life slug it out while she waits passively. No, if Jun thinks he has to do this, he needs all the encouragement he can get, so she comes to the dojo in the middle of their fight.

This gives Jun a far bigger boost than Tomo realizes, because while he no longer regards her from a high pedestal, there’s still a good amount of that adoration for her, such that he believes he can’t stand still for a moment lest she get too far away from him.

His inferiority issues don’t magically disappear now that they both know each others’ feelings. Instead, he holds himself to an even higher standard. Jun, despite not being the sharpest tack on the board, realizes her dad is leaving openings on purpose to compel him to come in close to deliver a crushing blow, at great risk to himself.

Tomo’s dad knows Tomo will rush ahead. He wants to make sure Jun is someone who won’t just watch adoringly, but run beside her, and back her up in this rhetorical hero scenario. Jun doesn’t know if he can put his life on the line for a stranger, but for Tomo? He’ll walk through the gates of hell.

Jun wins the duel with Tomo’s dad by delivering what would have been a knockout punch if his opponent had been anyone else. But when her dad still won’t go down (even though his hand touched the ground), her mom finishes him off with a brutal smackdown. Jun is the winner, and Tomo leaps into his arms with abandon.

With that symbolic hurdle out of the way, Tomo and Jun are free to go out. When Jun interrupts Tomo to tell her he loves her and asks her to go out with him, she curses him for beating her to it. Her punishment is to take things a step further, so she gives him a big old smooch on the lips, in the perfect time and place.

Their kiss mirrors the poster of the movie they saw, and while they’re still far from ready for some of the later steps the movie couple took after the kissing, this is still a huge deal for these two. The floodgates of love are open, some initial stumbling blocks have been overcome, and they’re poised to begin a race that will continue for the rest of their lives together: the race to make each other’s hearts race faster.

Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 12 – Having It All

Misuzu performs her role as Cinderella seriously, even if Carol fails to be a remotely evil Stepmother. As she dances with “Prince” Tomo, it’s just another confirmation to her that she really is the perfect prince. This is who Tomo is, and Misuzu is still beating herself up for getting Tomo to think making herself more girly would appeal to Jun.

No, Tomo simply being her natural self is best. When Jun asks her to soak in the festival with him, she goes with the flow, and whether it’s coffee and cake or going up against each other at soccer, she realizes she still has a blast with Jun. But if they go out, can it still be that way, or will she lose that which she already treasures so dearly?

When Jun unexpectedly asks Tomo to dance (thereby breaking the hearts of at least a dozen girls who wanted to dance with her), it’s awkward. Tomo says he should be careful doing things like asking her to dance, or others will get the wrong idea. when he says they wouldn’t have the wrong idea, she runs off suddenly in a panic.

From that point on, Tomo forgets that exchange ever happened, and overcompensates by acting unnaturally energetic, even for her. Jun considers whether it’s her way of rejecting him, but wisely seeks out the advice of Kousuke, who tells him whatever is up with Tomo, the best he can do is be direct and upfront with her about his feelings.

Jun is…less wise in taking Misuzu to a quiet corner to apologize to her for being in love with Tomo. The fact that Jun might’ve been hesitating because he was worried about her feelings all this time is laughable to her, and she makes clear that she was the one who threw their brief relationship in the trash. But this is Jun, who can see the good girl clear through Misuzu’s evil girl façade.

Jun then uses the oldest trick in the book—a letter of challenge—to lure Tomo up to the roof, where she has nowhere to run or hide from him as he tells her directly that he loves her, and not just as a friend. Further, he apologizes for not being able to respond when she confessed to him way back under the cherry trees.

Tomo slugs him in anger, but immediately feels bad about it, since she, someone running away form a confession, has no right to be mad at Jun doing the same thing. Like her, he was afraid (and also felt unworthy). When Tomo rejoins Misuzu and Carol, the former immediately assesses the situation. Carol suggests that now they both know they love each other, they should just go out.

But Tomo isn’t sure what that means. What makes it different? How are she and Jun supposed to be? It’s here where Misuzu finally gathers the courage to tell Tomo that all this is her fault, and that there was never any reason to try to become more girly. Tears start to fall from her eyes, surprising both Tomo and Carol (whose hand Misuzu grabbed when Carol was about to leave them alone). Misuzu offers Tomo her blessing and a fist bump.

Tomo tracks down Jun, and assures him she won’t run away anymore, so give her another chance. The two start to walk, and Tomo has Jun confirm over and over that yes, he does love her. Then Tomo asks if he’s sure he wants to go out if it means they won’t be best buds anymore. But that thought never occurred to Jun.

Jun says he believes it’s not only possible but only natural that they’d remain best buds even when they start going out. He illustrates his point by suddenly challenging Tomo to a race up some shrine steps. He still wants to compete with her. They can be childhood friends, best buds, rivals, and boyfriend and girlfriend.

Why not? Who’s going to tell either of them they can’t? Nobody! Even supposing such people existed, they’d get their asses kicked! All Tomo needed was to embrace the concept of having it all—and realize that when it comes to who you love, sometimes it’s okay to be selfish. Now that she has, she can face Jun and tell him (again) that she loves him too. Finally, they’re on the same page—no telepathy needed!

Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 11 – Cinderella’s Curse

This week features a couple of school rom-com standbys: the part-time job and prepping for the class play. Tomo-chan takes these tropes and makes them their own with its beautifully written and performed characters I’ve come to love. Tomo needs cash to buy a birthday gift for Jun, so Misuzu and Carol join her. Tanabe offers the three jobs at his family’s ramen restaurant.

While Misuzu manages to avoid it, Carol and Tomo end up in maid outfits for the job. When Jun stops by for a bowl (he’s a regular), Tomo ends up his waitress, and she’s fully prepared for him to make fun of her outfit. But he doesn’t, because he’s long since realized Tomo is a total cutie and it’s a gift to all mankind to see her in a maid outfit. He ends up frequenting the restaurant every day she works there, and with her pay she gets him a FitBit to match her own.

The second half has Tomo channelling Ikari Gendou as she consults Misuzu on how to get Jun to see her as a girl, for the first time in a while. Misuzu suggests physical contact, which she tries to achieve by pushing Jun down some stairs and into Tomo’s waiting arms. Jun’s athleticism is such that he’s able to dodge Tomo (who has murderous intent), but ends up accidentally touching Carol’s boob. Carol’s reaction is perfectly Carol, and an ashamed Jun demands that Tomo punch the shit out of him to atone.

That failed prank shakes Misuzu to the core; she can’t believe she shoved Jun down the stairs; even if he is a brick shithouse, he could have gotten hurt. It’s all part and parcel of an enduring guilt over how she’s treated Tomo over the years, which she believes to have actually stifled Tomo’s progress with Jun rather than helped it. While lost in thought, Misuzu herself ends up falling down the steps…and into Tanabe’s arms. As thanks for saving her, Misuzu agrees to exchange contact info.

Misuzu confides in Carol that she may not want Tomo and Jun to get together; Carol is Carol and gives Misuzu a big hug, assuring her she’s not as bad as she thinks she is. But Misuzu is so afraid to face Tomo that she stays home sick for three days. Tomo has to hear it via Carol, and when she visits Misuzu, says it feels like she’s avoiding her. She wonders if Misuzu is simply overthinking, but after everything Misuzu believes she’s done to Tomo, she’s not feeling worthy of Tomo’s unconditional forgiveness.

Misuzu pays for her absence by having the class play role of Cinderella bestowed on her, thanks to a suggestion from Carol. Naturally, Tomo will play the Prince, and when she’s trying to act she’s terrible, but when she’s just herself she’s an irresistible lady-killer. Tomo is stunning in her princely garb and slicked-back hair, causing all the girls to swoon, while Misuzu has a similar effect in her blue Cinderella gown and up-do, but the glamorous glow-up belies her morose mood.

In the absolute funniest moment of the episode that had me howling, she leans against a brown surface and sighs, and the camera pulls out to reveal she’s leaning against Jun in his tree costume. While these two continue to be incredibly petty and prickly to each other, it’s also clear they understand each other quite a bit, because they remain very much alike in their inability to face Tomo head-on.

Misuzu can push him over and leave him unable to get up like an inverted turtle, but she can’t deny he hit the nail on the head. Jun can tell what’s upsetting Misuzu because it’s the same thing that upsets him. But I imagine Tomo and Jun will start dating at some point, so I hope that doesn’t mean Misuzu can’t be friends with Tomo anymore. Maybe the impending play will be an opportunity to suss things out properly.

Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 10 – Turning Point

It’s the class marathon, and no one is happier or more fired up than Tomo and Jun. Jun in particular loves nothing more than to compete against Tomo, and the two end up far ahead of the pack, and even threaten to overtake their teacher…who is on a moped! When they reach the turning point for the girls, Tomo runs straight through it, because she’s not racing the girls—she’s racing Jun!

Alas, her intensive training the previous day (which left her lying face up naked in the bathroom) gave her a fever, and when she collapses, the race is over. With no phone and no one around, Jun finally gets to put the body he’s spent years building up to good use, carrying Tomo on his back to the finish line. Tomo wakes up with Carol snuggling with her and Misuzu freaked out that she’d actually get sick.

Both girls insist that Tomo make use of her rare “moment of weakness” to let Jun pamper her. She even gets him to carry her on his back again when she’s awake to enjoy it! They both note how they’ve grown in this moment of closeness.

He gets to say the words she once said to him: if you’re in trouble, of course I’ll be there. And, to his shock, she uses this opportunity to give him back his handheld video game. After all, he was the stronger man than she was…if only today!

Getting his video game back is a much bigger deal for Jun than Tomo probably realizes…so much so that the second half of the episode is a flashback to when Jun first learned Tomo was a girl when he saw her in a girl’s uniform when middle school started. The two were so close, rumors immediately spread that they were going out. Jun, who believed those rumors would cause trouble for Tomo, decided to start ignoring her.

A whole damn year passed without Jun having the guts to approach Tomo and apologize, and they devolved into mere acquaintances. Meanwhile, Misuzu was having a friendship crisis, unsure if she’d be able to stay close to Tomo when she was continuing to jock it up like their earlier years.

Misuzu and Jun’s individual crises brought them together into that brief weird fling. It’s nice to see Jun grappling with the sudden reality that Misuzu is his girlfriend (accompanied by shots of her looking cute) and even Misuzu admits it feels good (at least until the grueling exercise started). It was, after all, the first time either of them had dated anyone.

Misuzu’s hope was that Jun could “slow Tomo down”, but after their dates, she determined that he might have the opposite effect. It really brings her down, and when Tomo asks about her in class, Misuzu plainly declares that they may not be able to stay friends.

Tomo takes her aside to get her to clarify, then tells her athletic prowess has nothing to do with their friendship. Tomo tells Misuzu that their time together is far more precious to her than all her guy friends. This immediately brightens Misuzu’s day.

After dumping Misuzu (who is devastated by the fact he beat her to it), Jun finally speaks to Tomo, but as he walks behind her, can’t seem to find the words. Finally, Tomo opens the conversation with her fists, angrily and tearfully demanding to know why he’s been ignoring her for so long and only now deigned to talk to her. When he tells her the reason, he asks her why they should give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks if they want to “be together like they’ve always been”.

Jun admits he wants to be with her like always, so she tells him to be with her already…a-as friends, j-just friends, yeah? Jun wants to be together with Tomo forever. The both of them may have changed, and their relationship has changed with it.  In the present, Jun wants to find a way to still be with her forever. That he was able to make up and get back with her in middle school gives me hope he’ll manage to find a way in the final three episodes.

P.S. I almost forgot to mention that after nine episodes of the girls singing the cute ED, it’s the boys turn to sing this time, and it’s awesome! It’s also good timing, what with Kou x Carol being codified last week and Jun seeing Tomo as a romantic partner more than ever this week. As to whether Misuzu will ever agree to a date with whasisname…I won’t hold my breath but that would be sweet too. BFs for everyone!

Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 09 – Carolization

Kousuke describes himself as a sullen boy in his earlier years, preferring books to the tedium of other people. He was miffed when his mother described Carol as an angel, but then he got his first look at her, and became a believer. There she was, an real-life angel in the flesh. And that was it. He was in love.

After the warehouse incident, Kousuke wants to get stronger. He goes to the right place for that: the Aizawa Dojo. But he soon learns just how out of his league he is, whether it’s Tomo, her dad, or Jun. He also doesn’t realize how much it irks Jun when he talks about wanting Tomo to “acknowledge” him. Of course, Kousuke isn’t after Tomo that way.

Like Jun, Carol gets the wrong idea about Kousuke training at Tomo’s house (and she doesn’t even hear that he was in her bed when Jun knocked him out!). Carol is pissed, and decides to get back at Tomo by claiming Jun for a day, then telling Misuzu in passing that she shouldn’t think she’ll “get her way”. Misuzu always knew Carol concealed an edge, but even she’s taken aback to see that edge fully bared.

Carol comes right out and tells Jun the score: she was mean to Misuzu earlier, and by being with him she’s being mean to Tomo, but right now she just wants to blow off some steam. Jun assures her that Tomo won’t be quick to give up on a friend just because they were mean to her. Then Jun and Carol somehow end up in his room, and she kisses him and jumps on top of him.

She doesn’t take things any further, but when Carol asks him why he’s so scared of women, and how if that doesn’t change he might have problems with Tomo down the road. Partly because he’s terrified of Carol and partly because he wants to prove her wrong, Jun runs next door and gives Tomo a big hug. Carol follows her to apologize to both. She’s let off her steam, and now she’s headed home.

The next day Carol tells Kousuke she hung out with Jun, including in his bedroom, and is treated to a “really weird face”. She reports this to Misuzu, who wonders if Kousuke has ever seen Carol being serious. When she meets with him, she and we get the gist of Kousuke’s deal. He loves Carol, but the thought of getting closer to her terrifies him, because he believes he’s weak, and she’s still so dazzling to him it’s hard to even look at her.

Misuzu rightly deduces that Kousuke needs to see Carol’s vulnerable side, in order to shatter his longstanding ideal of her as an untouchable goddess. But to do so, Misuzu has to be cruel. She tells Carol a lie; that Kousuke doesn’t like her that way, and that when she told him about Jun, it was more like a father giving away her bride than jealousy. Misuzu fully expects Carol not to break that eternal grin, but the face Carol makes is so startling that Misuzu, Tomo, and Jun alike are stunned.

Carol heads home early, and Misuzu quickly gets with Kousuke to tell him to go see Carol immediately to resolve the situation. Once he’s viciously headbutted by Carol’s mom, he enters her room to find neither an angel nor a goddess, but a lonely girl crying her eyes out because she believes the boy she loves doesn’t love her back.

Kousuke steels himself, knowing there’s no going back, and pulls Carol out of the darkness by telling her Misuzu was lying to put her in “a vulnerable state”. Then he tells her, straight up, that he loves her. Carol immediately brightens up and even gleefully shouts banzai before advancing on Kousuke, whereupon her mom blows a whistle and declares that will be enough of that for now.

Carol’s mom later tells Kousuke that she once told Carol she looks cuter when she smiles, only to find she started to smile and never stopped. She constantly worries that someone might take that smile away, but Kousuke assures her he’ll never do that, and that Carol has more friends now who have her back through thick and thin.

That comes through the next day when Carol returns to class wearing a creepy bunny mask, filling a guilty Misuzu with apprehension. She removes the mask to reveal a big goofy smile, and instead of punish or scold Misuzu, she thanks her for pulling the not-always-pleasant but necessary strings to bring her and Kousuke together.

And that, dear readers, is how the chaotic comic relief character absolutely steals Tomo’s show, like snatching candy from a large, muscular baby. All hail Carol Olsten and Sally Amaki, long may they reign!

Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 08 – The End of Now

This week was a non-stop smorgasbord of excellence, starting with a girl’s sleepover in which Carol perfectly imitates Misuzu when Tomo won’t. That is to say, Sally Amaki perfectly imitates Hidaka Rina, while Takahashi Rie voices Tomo with her usual exquisite blend of haminess and sweetness. Sweet ham!

When Misuzu wins “King”, she orders Tomo to ask Jun to go to the fireworks together—just the two of them. They all go next door, Tomo asks, and Jun agrees easily, but also seems a little out of it to Tomo?

That night, as Carol snuggles with Tomo, Misuzu is almost on the verge of tears as she rues the day she ever set Tomo on a path that would only take her further away from her.

And yet Misuzu also quietly declares there’s “no going back”, and probably wouldn’t even if she could. That morning, she mysteriously wakes up right next to Tomo while Carol is sleeping peacefully in the bed.

Carol also invites Misuzu to join her and Kousuke at the festival, and while Misuzu doesn’t want to be a third wheel, Carol won’t let her be alone. That said, Kousuke demonstrates how easily Carol gets lost in crowds, and how quickly he’s learned how to retrieve her. Misuzu says he must “have it rough”, but Kousuke would never say or think that.

As for Tomo, she shows up looking so damn good in her red yukata, she is briefly too dazzling for Jun’s eyes, and she causes a sensation with the festival workers who can’t believe what a beauty she’s become. She and Jun-bo are notorious for winning every game they can throw at them.

And yet, as tough as Tomo is, she still freezes up when a couple of older guys try to chat her up. She makes the mistake of saying she doesn’t have a boyfriend, which only makes them more interested. But when Jun firmly pulls her away, the guys can just tell that a real Capital-C Couple is walking away.

Tomo starts to think that Jun’s shift in behavior is because he’s finally starting to notice her, but the truth is he hasn’t stopped noticing her since she confessed her love to him. Turns out he assumed she didn’t mean that kind of love. These two…I swear to God…

Tomo decides she’s going to try to confess again before the fireworks, but then realizes that when she does, it will be “the end of now, and the start of something.” That’s pretty damn poetic for Tomo! But it also happens to be true: not being quite sure exactly what “something” means, it’s always easier to settle back into “now”.

But “now” is already long gone for Jun, as after Tomo says goodbye to him, he admits that while he hasn’t quite sorted out all his feelings, he knows for sure that he’ll never be able to punch Tomo in the face again.

The next day at school, Tomo is full of long, restless sighs, as ever since the fireworks, Tomo has seemingly treated her with kid gloves, only grazing her shoulder with his pinky in the morning (which I agree is creepy!) She tells Misuzu and Carol about it, and Carol later tells Misuzu that exactly what she planned is going down…and Misuzu doesn’t want to hear it.

She may have helped facilitate Tomo getting closer to Jun, but she’s starting to regret it, in part since it could mean less Tomo for her down the road. It’s not clear whether Misuzu has romantic feelings for Tomo, but you could definitely interpret it that way.

Needless to say, she’s in a sour mood, which is not improved when the thugs who Tomo and Jun beat up before decide to target her. Her sharp, venomous tone and dark aura momentarily stun them, but alone aren’t enough to keep them at bay.

When Carol shows up, Misuzu tells the thugs that Carol “has nothing to do” with her or Tomo. As they start to escor Misuzu away, Carol whips out a stun gun and zaps the hell out of the thug leader. But when Misuzu takes her hand for them to escape together, Carol twists out of her grip…and faceplants in a mud puddle.

Misuzu and Carol hide out in a warehouse, where Misuzu says she only said she had nothing to do with Carol to protect her, and even says the truth is she considers her like “something of” a friend. That’s enough for Carol to forgive her and try to give her an enormous Carol Olsten bear hug. But it’s also enough to give away their position the thugs.

Fortunately, Misuzu and Carol don’t have to stew in terror for long, as that terror becomes the exclusive property of the thugs once Tomo and Jun arrive. Misuzu actually called Jun and specifically told him not to tell Tomo, but of course Tomo could see the murderous intent in Jun’s face (even Jun has an amazing face game this week!) and insisted on coming along.

When Jun makes it about him and accuses her of not trusting him to handle a few punks, she immediately corrects him. This isn’t about her not thinking he can handle himself. It’s about how completely against her entire being to sit around in safety while her friends are in danger. Her friends, her fight. Jun does smack one of the guys unconscious with withering nonchalance before Tomo yells at him to stand down and let her cook.

I hasten to add that Kousuke also learned that Carol was in danger and followed Tomo and Jun. While those to are fighting, he looks for the girls, and finds Misuzu helping Carol take off her wet muddy clothes. Kousuke assumes the thugs did something indecent to his Carol and Tomo and Jun have to work hard to keep him away from said thugs before Carol clears up the misunderstanding. I see you Ko-chan!

After the fight, Misuzu tells the others to buzz off so she can have a private chat with the defeated thugs. She explains to them that Tomo is the only daughter of the head of the Aizawa Dojo (whom they know to be a famous master delinquent) and promises the thug leader that he’ll be held personally responsible if any of the punks he’s gathered come near her, Tomo, or Carol again. It’s Mizusu at her most hostile, threatening, and scary.

Jun hangs back anyway to walk Mizusu home, citing the fact that scary she may be, she’s still a girl. Mizusu points out that so is Tomo, and immediately regrets it as Jun then starts talking about Tomo in a way Mizusu would rather not hear. She doesn’t want to hear it from him or “that squishy bitch”, which might just be the best nickname ever.

Balancing genuinely funny comedy with genuinely sweet romance and genuinely powerful drama…it’s just Tomo-Chan Is a Girl! and its immensely talented seiyuu firing on all cylinders.

Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 07 – The End of Gamer Boy

This week takes us back ten years to the meeting of Jun and Tomo. Having moved from Tokyo, Jun is content to play his handheld game until Tomo hops over the fence to introduce herself (at this point he thinks she’s a boy). Within seconds, his video game is broken.

He learns what a decent person Tomo is when she and her dad stop by to formally apologize (having told on herself) and she asks to be his friend. From that point on the two are inseparable, with Jun doing his best just to keep up with Tomo as she runs, leaps, and climbs all over the place.

Before long, Tomo introduces her even older friend Misuzu, who is hilariously exactly the same as she is in the present, making her quite the precocious kid and future shit-stirrer. When the three go on a bug-hunting trip atop a 200-step shrine stair, Tomo carries Mizuzu on her back and looks smug.

This propels Jun to run up the steps to beat them, and he later smiles one of his first smiles in front of Tomo when he finds a stag beetle. When Tomo embraces Jun, Misuzu grabs her by the shirt, and we witness the origins of her and Jun’s long-standing mutual antagonism.

Jun notes how just being with Tomo made him feel stronger, until one day he learned that was just an illusion when some bullies beat him up and took his (replaced) video game. Tomo is concerned about the mark on his cheek, and even Misuzu derides no joy in making fun of it when clearly something’s amiss.

Then, totally unbidden, Tomo shows up at Jun’s front gate with his video game in hand and a face full of bruises. Jun is furious that she went and took it back alone, but she says she’ll always help him when he’s in trouble, because they’re friends. But Jun is frustrated to the point of tears, because he knows he can’t do the same for Tomo…not until he gets stronger.

That’s how he ended up joining the Aizawa dojo and becoming the impressive physical specimen on display in the beach trip half of the episode—all to become stronger than Tomo so he could take back the video game with his own hands.

Of course, present-day Tomo still plays the game, wondering when he’ll take it, assuming he’s stronger than her by now. But if there’s anything that makes his strength waste away to nothing and cause him to freeze in his tracks, it’s large breasts. Carol has them, but more importantly, Tomo has them too.

Misuzu and Carol are all too aware of this, and accompany Tomo and Jun to the beach trip specifically to see his face when he sees Tomo in her new itty bitty green-striped bikini top, which leaves Jun absolutely zero room to keep thinking of her as a dude.

He zips her up and hangs out under the umbrella with the modestly-endowed Misuzu, who seriously wants to hit him for what his proximity implies. But Tomo is so jazzed up about the beach that she completely forgets she’s in a revealing bikini top and treats Jun like she usually does, with a lot of physical contact.

In this way, Tomo is simply unconsciously demonstrating to Jun how far he still has to go to be stronger than her. He doesn’t simply want to match her in physical strength or prowess in the dojo; he wants to be strong enough not to freeze up every time Tomo touches him.

These thoughts provide more much-appreciated insight into how Jun actually feels about Tomo. The problem isn’t that he sees her as a guy, it’s that he sees her as a girl, and is still wrestling with that. The one thing he fears more than never getting stronger than her is losing what they have.

On the train home, Tomo is initially leaning on Jun but then leans over to Misuzu, already being glommed on by Carol. Her smug look is fantastic, and she asks Jun “what happened” to make him not enjoy the beach trip. For all their adversarial exchanges and glares, Misuzu and Jun go way back to those carefree days catching bugs with their mutual best friend Tomo.

This trip confirmed for Misuzu that Jun sees Tomo only as a girl, and is struggling with how to act around her. This is progress! Misuzu’s goal is to get Tomo and Jun together, but at the end of the day, Jun will need to do his part. This is considerably tougher than his handheld video games, but the rewards of victory will be just as considerable.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 06 – That Big Back

Tomo doesn’t realize it’s her birthday until Jun gets her some Kamina some new sporty shades, and then it’s off to the races, with Tomo urging both him and Misuzu, who are younger, to respect their elder or call her onee-san. But Misuzu’s reference books and Carol’s solid gold brick aren’t her real birthday gift: a complete girly makeover with wig, makeup, dress, and heels.

Misuzu sends Tomo out to the kobini like this, and she immediately draws the gaze of every guy in the store. Also, Jun is there, and while he acts to her like he doesn’t recognize her, he does, and spends the rest of their time together on the fence about whether it’s actually her or not.

It’s kind of left ambiguous if he’s convinced it’s Tomo when they see a younger guy-girl pair excelling at soccer and wonder what their future will hold, while saying he has a similar situation where a girl is his best friend. He hasn’t thought about their future, but he does say he wants to beat her (competitively, obviously!)

The next morning Jun cradles Tomo’s face and inspects her, which leads to her slugging him, which I see as him being glad his Tomo is “back”, if indeed he thought the girl in the dress was Tomo as well. Tomo’s strength and ferocity gets her sent to the boy’s dodgeball team with Jun for the school ball sports tournament.

They easily coast to the finals, where they’re pitted against a third-year behemoth, Goma, who Jun isn’t sure he can beat, but is confident Tomo can. When Goma calls Tomo a “fragile-looking little lady”, Tomo is actually delighted!

Jun ends up sacrificing himself to keep Tomo from getting hit by Goma’s shot, and in retribution, Tomo sends a screamer between Goma’s legs. It’s a pass that’s caught by Tanabe, who easily hits Goma for the team win.

But the pass was meant for Jun, and he missed it, because he thought Tomo would defeat Goma on her own. After school, Goma challenges Jun to a series of judo matches, and is impressed Jun is able to hang in there without resorting to karate.

When Goma asks why Jun trains so hard yet doesn’t enter any tournaments, Jun simply says he’s trying to catch up to “that big back” from his earlier days, referring to Tomo. For a while, he was the weakling gamer and she was his strong, dependable friend and protector.

He may be bigger and technically stronger than her now, but he still feels like he has a long way to go. We don’t yet know if what Jun feels for Tomo is love, but we can still be certain of two things: he admires her, and he wants to be like her. So whatever becomes of their romantic prospects, Tomo can rest assured Jun won’t be leaving her side anytime soon.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 05 – Gamer Boy

Carol invites her first two friends Tomo and Misuzu to her house—or should I say sprawling compound—and they meet her mother, who totally explains why the way she is. For one thing, she’s a hugger. For another, she’s actually sharper and more perceptive than she looks, as she sees right through Misuzu pretending to be a “bad girl” who is only friends with Carol “for the money.”

In preparation for a math exam, Misuzu deigns to serve as Tomo and Carol’s tutor in a study group, during which Tomo makes clear she wants to follow Misuzu to college since they’re best friend.. It’s here where Tomo and Misuzu learn that Carol is actually a damn math savant! She even ranks #1 over Misuzu’s #2! Tomo gets #70, which is an all-time best.

When Jun invites Tomo over to play a new video game he got, Tomo agrees without thinking about the ramifications of spending the night at Jun’s. She wants to tell him she can’t go, but Misuzu and Carol are united to their insistence that she can’t do that. Tomo only has to go next door to Jun’s, and they get through a curry dinner without any incident.

But during and after Tomo showers, things are quiet and a little awkward. Jun re-breaks the ice by suggesting they play video games, but after Tomo loses and teases Jun for being a “former gamer boy”, they roughhouse like they always did…and end up in a compromising position.

It’s clear in several moments that this is as weird and exciting for Jun as it is for Tomo, as he has to steel himself by slapping his cheeks and seems to take great joy getting smacked by Tomo’s controller. The two are adorable in their complete inability to stay up past 10 PM. As Tomo takes Jun’s bed and Jun takes the futon on the floor, they agree that they had fun.

When Jun asks if they’ll always be able to be “like this”, Tomo is poised to reaffirm her feelings for him, only for him to nod of before she can. She then notices his face and its details for the first time when he’s asleep and motionless. When she starts holding his nose for fun, he puts her in a lock in his sleep, so they’re essentially cuddling all night.

The next morning, Jun wakes up first, sees Tomo beside him, and does a backflip out of bed and straight into his desk, waking her. They say their goodbyes, and presumably reunite at the dojo later that day. The next day at school, they’re awkward, but still together, and not at all bothered by that fact. Misuzu and Carol watch the couple with great satisfaction.

With Tomo finally sort of noticing that Jun may be feeling the same things she’s feeling, only he’s doing a better job of hiding it, our athletic couple is gradually growing a little closer together. Jun’s sticking point seems to be a general worry that they might lose the good thing they have going now, but that is a common and not unreasonable worry.

The bottom line is, becoming a couple could well be a much better thing. It will take a leap of faith and a willingness to put themselves out there and risk getting hurt in order to evolve beyond platonic childhood chumminess.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible – 04 – Made With Love

When Seita has had enough TV, Junta takes him outside to play (where it’s oddly not winter despite it being Christmas last week). After watching Seita try and fail the proper sequence of movements to “Transform!”, Junta strikes the pose perfectly, inspiring his brother to do it with him. Ironically, Junta doesn’t notice Kubo is there until she’s already filmed him.

Back at school. Junta notices he’s wearing socks of two different lengths, and that there’s also something different about Kubo. When they get a chair to post up some printouts, she notices his socks, and he finally notices the difference: she’s wearing tights instead of her usual socks. Of course, that implicates Junta in having looked at Kubo’s legs all day.

Kubo then takes Junta on a little after-school date to the konbini, where she samples the instant drink machine for the first time. When Kubo suggests they buy two different drinks and split them, Kubo sees the indirect kiss trap, and gets a meat bun instead. Kubo ends up taking the first bite of that bun, but after she leaves, he’s unable to eat it as it falls to the ground when someone bumps into him.

Next up, it’s Valentine’s Day. Junta, naturally, has never gotten chocolate from anyone, even the teacher in grade school who forgot he was there while passing it out to everyone. So when he sees a heart-shaped cookie in his desk, he assumes it’s some kind of mistake. He also doesn’t have the courage to ask Kubo about it. Kubo likewise doesn’t come right out and say she made him the cookie, but tells him it was made with love so he should enjoy it.

Then we cut to the previous night, when a determined Kubo tried and utterly failed to bake edible treats. That’s when Akina decides to “bake herself” some treats, and offhandedly suggests they could work together. Because Kubo wants to make the best cookie she can, she swallows her pride and follows along with her sister, resulting in a superior final product to her first attempt, which Akina even deems better tasting than hers, since Kubo put so much love into it.

Thus the welcome trend continues of balancing Junta’s thoughts with scenes of Kubo on her own or with her sister. Junta is wise to Kubo’s desire for an indirect kiss, but dense about the Valentine, despite Kubo giving him plenty to figure out where it came from. Will he put two and two together and get her a gift in return on White Day? Only time will tell!

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