Vlad Love – 10 – The Incredible Cyber-Franken-Kong

I have myself been blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed.—Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

In a return to “conventional” Vlad Love, Chihiro-sensei introduces the new transfer student to the night class: Franken Yasohachi, an immense part-robot, part-golem who must be plugged in to operate. Mai also recognizes him as…her fiancée. Needless to say, this is problematic for Mitsugu. Mai tells the story of how this came to be, starting with when she once ran away from home to escape one of her awful previous step-moms.

While picking petals to determine whether to kill her, lil’ Mai is approached by Franken offering her a single flower. While initially startled, Mai is charmed by his face and accepts the flower, which in vamp society is how one proposes marriage. The night class soon learns their new transfer student has the brains of geniuses both scientific and musical and the body of an olympic athlete. He can even heel-toe an AE86 Trueno GT-Apex!

But even with a newly-installed battery, Franken can only operate unplugged for three minutes, and charging back up takes three hours—almost as slow as the GM EV1. As such, during off-hours he’s stored in a closet, while Mitsugu gets to hang out with Mai. Mitsugu is happy it’s a quiet night, seemingly oblivious to the giant electrical storm outside that brings Franken to wireless life.

Woozy from her blood dinner, Mai mistakes Mitsugu for “Daddy” and wants to share her closet with her for the night. Mitsugu swallows hard and decides to see how this will play out, but the scene is interrupted by the suddenly berserk Franken, who is a bit too aggro in offering Mai another flower. Mitusu and Mai escape on Mai’s umbrella.

During their escape, Franken is hit by lightning again (a one in 9 million chance!) and transforms into a Hulk-like green rage monster who starts stomping and smashing his way through Minato, Tokyo. We’re treated to some cool cityscapes as the JSDF scrambles apaches, while Franken-Hulk climbs Tokyo Tower like King Kong climbed the Empire State Building.

After an interminable call with a half-asleep Chihiro who can’t be otherwise bothered, Mai and Mitsugu learn how to switch the monster off: land on his head and twist the bolt on his head, and he goes out like a light. The city is saved from total destruction (again), and the dynamic duo of Mitsugu and Mai were the ones to save it.

Franken is returned to his closet, unplugged and insulated to prevent further power surges. The flower meant for Mai remains in his hand, wilting away. Who knows if we’ll see Franken again, but he was a fun new member of the class while he lasted.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 22 – One Thing They Agree On

Takeda Yusuke, the glittery prettyboy teased last week finally reveals what his deal is: he’s the son of the school’s president, and has been nipping at Fuutarou’s heels in grades for two years. Fuutarou has never heard of him, nor does he care about school rankings.

Still, Takeda challenges him to prove the quints aren’t holding him back, by placing in the top one hundred of the upcoming national mock exams. Fuu sees that challenge and raises the stakes to top ten, all while helping the quints study for theirs. It won’t be easy, but his pride and their honor is on the line.

The quints are also aware that Fuutarou’s birthday is coming up. Ichika puts out the suggestion that they all hold off from giving him their gifts until after the exams. In truth, she intends to betray them all by being the only sister to give him a gift. She even stops Miku from talking to Fuu, knowing as far as Fuu knows, Miku told him Ichika likes him.

Ichika soon pays for her continued underhanded measures when she sees Nino already has a gift for Fuu and is planning to give it to him when she damn well feels like it. The group text put the brakes on the others, but Nino Train’s brakes don’t work!

When Nino brings up how Ichika failed to keep their dad occupied at the spa, frustration and desperation conspire to lend Ichika the courage to finally say what needs to be said: Despite the two having different tastes in everything else, they both like Fuutarou, and Ichika doesn’t intend to let Nino have him without a fight.

As both girls are planning to break the pact and give Fuu their gifts early, they walk in on Yotsuba making paper cranes for Fuu’s health and good luck, and then raking herself over the coals for not realizing the cranes would technically comprise a gift, thus making her a “horrible human being.” Naturally, Miku is also ready with her gift of couples tickets to the gym.

Seeing that she’s getting nowhere with this strategy, Ichika again suggests all of them give him his gift at once, after the exams. When Nino asks if she’s really okay with this, Ichika says none of them “get” Fuutarou. She’s confident he’ll like her gift—presumably a gift card—the best.

We get a rare Itsuki sighting, as she visits a fatigued Fuu and gives him an energy drink, which I guess technically makes her the first to actually give him a gift of any kind! She also tells him she’s going to aim to improve her academic capabilities while assisting Shimoda-san with tutoring, in hopes of getting a look at education in action. Education sans Fuutarou, it seems…

The mocks come and go, and Fuutarou buries Takeda, ranking third to his eighth, as Takeda reports to the quints’ dad. He also reports that all five of the quints have made considerable progress. Everyone then gives Fuu his gifts at once, though oddly enough we don’t get to watch his reactions.

Yotsuba checks in on Miku at her bakery, where she first serves a croissant that resembles a rock, then one that looks dead. The third time’s the charm, and while it’s not quite up to spec with something the bakery would charge money for, her manager is happy with her progress.

Miku seems to be putting all her efforts into lunch on the first day of the school trip, which is their class’s responsibility. Unfazed by the drubbing Nino gave her, she intends to impress Fuutarou with her best cooking yet in Kyoto. The only problem is, she doesn’t know for sure if they’re in the same touring group.

In fact, no one knows what group Fuutarou will choose, only that the groups can only be a maximum of five people. Again Ichika attempts to gain advantage by pulling Yotsuba aside and pretty much dictating that the two of them and Fuutarou will form their own group.

Presumably, Ichika isn’t aware of Yotsuba’s feelings for Fuu any more than Nino was aware of Ichika’s. And fate just so happens to smile on Yotsuba this week, perhaps because she’s not acting like a backstabbing hussy! Raiha reminds her brother that he needs to thank Yotsuba for helping him at school camp.

Fuutarou isn’t about to disobey his sister, so he stops by to ask Yotsuba what she wants as a thank you gift, not to exceed ¥1500. They end up spending the entire day and evening together, and while Yotsuba doesn’t come out and say it, that’s what she wanted. Not lunch, or a movie, or clothes—though they do all those things.

While wondering where Yotsuba ran off to, Ichika notices a strange box in the middle of the living room of their apartment that Itsuki says is hers. A quick peek inside reveals the Rena disguise, and as she carries it away, that famous photo of Young Fuu and one of the sisters falls out. She notes it’s from Kyoto, then says “I see.” You see what?!

When Fuutarou finally presses Yotsuba to tell him what she wants, she takes him to a playground after dark, a special place she goes to swing when she’s feeling bummed. She effortlessly manages to get the ever-serious, practical, and logical Fuutaoru to stand on the swing and see how high he can go, which is precisely what she does in order to get a better view of the city at night, seeing a family in each one of the countless glowing lights and feeling warm inside.

After Yotsuba executes a perfect dismount with record distance, Fuutarou tries the same, but ends up completely inverted, freaking both him and Yotsuba out. When he returns to right-side-up, he smiles and bursts into raucous laughter, and while he still thinks he wasn’t able to give Yotsuba anything, she got everything she wanted.

The next day, the class trip group composition comes up, and Ichika is ready to go with her suggestion that she and Yotsuba form a group with Fuutarou, attempting to pressure Yotsuba to go along with her. Instead, Yotsuba sacrifices herself (of course), suggesting the other five form a group; she’ll have no trouble finding another group, gregarious as she is.

Nino pipes up, saying no one wants that arrangement, then declares not only what she wants, but what is going to happen: she’ll form a group with Fuutarou, and warns him to be grateful about it. But while her honesty and straightforwardness should be commended, the fact of the matter is Fuutarou is already in a group with some guys, including Takeda.

So for the class trip, the five sisters will form a group together. Their classmates assume it’s because they’re so tight-knit, but in truth it’s something none of them are looking forward to, since most of them are now at war with each other. Should be a fun trip!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Ten Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Yotsuba: Explanation isn’t really necessary here; while everyone else was plotting and scheming, Yotsuba got an actual date and some truly magial moments with Fuu, and not out of the blue, but because she helped him out in the past. Still, it was disconcerting how quickly she volunteered to be the odd girl out for the class trip. Total Points: 30 (2nd)
  2. Nino: It was pretty close, but I’m calling Nino the winner from among the schemers, due to her continued dedication to saying exactly what’s on her mind without any possibility of misunderstandings. Total Points: 38 (1st)
  3. Miku: Is legitimately improving her cooking skills and has a plan of action, but is still unwittingly suffering the effect of Ichika’s conniving. She’ll need to remain extra vigilant against… Total Points: 28 (Tied for 4th)
  4. Ichika: Her underhanded tactics plumb new depths this week. She’s convinced the only way she can fight is dirty, but get very little to show for it. Try to stop the Nino train and see what happens, Ich. Total Points: 26 (5th)
  5. Itsuki: Remains very elusive and squirrelly this week, but that disguise was super sketch…she’s up to something, and very much still in the game.  Total Points: 28 (Tied for 4th)

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 21 – Eyes On Me

Ichika announces to her sisters that starting next month everyone will have to chip in a fifth of the rent, or return to their stepdad’s apartment. There’s an opening at the bakery where Futarou works, but only one opening, leading to them both telling Fuu to “choose me.” Despite Miku’s chutzpah, it only takes one bake-off for the boss to hire Nino, who is objectively great at cooking and baking.

So why, as Nino puts it, does she feel like she lost? Because Miku doesn’t treat it as one. Instead, she gets a job at another bakery, having come to love making things and eager to get better at it. She’s also steadily working towards becoming someone Fuu would fall for, based on the sign he made of his top 3 qualities in a woman (“always cheerful”, “good at cooking”, and the top one yet to be revealed).

Ichika also wants to challenge herself by taking tougher and more serious roles that motivate her, not just any role to make a buck. That’s why she asked her sisters to try to get jobs, not out of any malice or resentment. Ichika worries that with everyone working they may end up drifting apart, but that’s proven wrong when all five sisters and Fuu end up in the same third-year class!

The quints are obviously a sensation with their classmates, who have no idea Fuu is in any way associated with them. The quints wished the class knew what a good heart he has, and so independent the larger war for that heart, they agree to think of ways to make the real Fuutarou known.

Yotsuba takes the most direct route by volunteering him to be the male class rep beside her. (I’ll also note that this is a good strategic move for Yotsuba as it ensures they’ll be able to spend time alone). Quite by accident, simply because he sees two classmates grab Miku thinking she’s Ichika, Fuutarou reveals that he’s an expert at telling the quints apart.

This is another instance of we the audience having to suspend disbelief they’re identical to everyone despite not looking or sounding so to us. This immediately ingratiates Fuu with the other girls, who cling to him hoping to learn more, drawing Miku’s quiet ire.

Miku is also the one to take Fuu aside in the hall to ask what he’d wish for if he had a magic lamp with five wishes. Top of the class he may be, but Fuu does not realize Miku is attempting to mine him for gift ideas the quints will fulfill for his birthday.

He says he’d wish for money, stamina, better sleep, faster recovery, and better luck. While they can’t provide those literal things (other than cash), they could get creative with a better pillow, weights, bath set, good luck charm…you name it! Or just give him cash!

Sensing that her lead in the Fuueepstakes may be dwindling, Nino reports for work in an exquisite pâtissière ensemble and her hair in a ponytail, hoping to catch Fuu’s eye, but he doesn’t give her a compliment when it’s due. If anything, she feels like they’ve grown more distant since her confession.

The day she starts happens to be the day a famous reviewer is stopping by for the boss’ new seasonal dish, so it’s all hands on deck. Nino initially impresses with her talents, but in the pace and chaos of a professional kitchen she screws up a batch of batter, and feels like she’s making everyone work harder.

While on a break with Fuu she expresses how she feels like she’s holding everyone back, but Fuu says it’s the boss’ fault for pushing so much work on a new recruit. He also shows her a box of 1,000 Christmas decorations when he was supposed to only order 100, as well as evidence of other mistakes he made that make hers look “trivial by comparison”.

Then, finally, Fuu brings up the confession, and when Nino least expects it: when he’s about as physically far from her in the break room as possible. He explains the delay in responding to her because no one had ever confessed their love, and he simply didn’t know how to talk to her about it. Still, he knows he owes her an answer, and so prepares to give it when Nino shushes him.

She says he has every reason to hate her, considering how nasty she’s been to him on-and-off since they met (not to mention all of the druggings). But now that they’re working together, there’s so much more she wants to tell him. She wants him to know her better, so he’ll understand how much she loves him. To all this, Fuu says “ah, so?” and flees the breakroom before her.

Nino is worried she failed to get through, but the boss notes that his face is red up to his ears, causing her to grin from ear to ear. She wishes him good luck, calling him “Fu-kun”, and even when they’re working with customers, she blows him a kiss that makes him blush all over again. As for the “famous reviewer”…It turned out to be Itsuki?

With Nino sitting pretty on top of the pack once more, we shift to Ichika as she tries to do what she wants. What she wants is for Fuutarou to only look at her—a most appropriate wish for an actress! But unlike Nino and to a lesser degree Miku, she still lacks the courage to launch direct attacks, and so she has to awkwardly manufacture a “chance encounter” outside the Starbucks.

Ichika is wearing big black-rimmed glasses in order to avoid unwanted attention from strangers after the screening of her film has made her a minor celebrity. That’s all too fitting, as Ichika is positively adorkable during this operation, which almost ends abruptly when they spot her four sisters.

Ichika doesn’t want him to go to them, or look at them, or talk about them, but keep his eyes and hears on her. She spontaneously grabs his hand to stop him, and says they should skip class together, and he declines instantly. Her failed insistence almost makes them late, making the operation an abject failure.

Even so, when the two arrive in class to find that all eyes are on Ichika, astounded that there’s a famous actress in their class, the praise that means the most to Ichika comes from Fuutaoru, who paid attention to her and remembered how she spoke of becoming a “good liar”.

Later that day, Ichika has to leave her fawning fans to join the study group, while Fuu runs into Miku in the hall. Only it’s not Miku, it’s Ichika, wearing the Miku disguise she’s been carrying on her. Fuutarou can’t believe Ichika’s movie already released, and Ichika learns that Miku was the one who told him about it.

That’s when Ichika, desperate for something to go right, employs another unconventional tactic: she pretends to be Miku when she tells Fuutarou that Ichika likes him, that she thinks they’d make a good couple, and that she’s rooting for them.

While I love Ichika, and you could say she’s playing to her strengths as an actress, I can’t see this as anything but dishonest, underhanded, frankly beneath her. Ichika!Miku’s crazed expression seems to confirm at least part of that, and yet she feels she’s gone too far to take it back. It’s certainly messy! I’m sure this definitely won’t blow up in her face…

Episode Nine Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Nino: All hail. Crushing Miku on her turf to win the job at the bakery. Getting flustered in the kitchen, only to be revitalized when Fuu finally acknowledged her confession. Good on her for not letting him answer yet. Total Points: 34 (1st)
  2. Miku: She lost another battle, but Miku is committed to winning the war, and going about it as meticulously as Fuu goes about his academics. Total Points: 26 (3rd)
  3. Yotsuba: Had no trouble getting cleaning job, and also just might have some after-school time with Fuutarou, should she want to spend any of it trying to get him to notice her…If she’s even interested in him! Total Points: 25 (4th)
  4. Ichika: Climbed out of her pit of despair last week only to flail about wildly and resort to playing dirty. A stark contrast to Miku trying to carefully do things “the right way”. Total Points: 23 (5th)
  5. Itsuki: The only sister still saying things like “I can’t understand why anyone would love that guy” with a straight face, and the only sister who has yet to find a job (CORRECTION: she apparently makes money doing restaurant reviews??) In her defense, Fuu’s “tacky” comment about her hairpins was a low blow! Total Points: 27 (2nd)

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 20 – Tantamount to Love

This week Fuutarou learns why there’s a Fake Itsuki when he finds four of them in one room. As Yotsuba explains, she was the first of the quints to change her appearance (with her bunny ribbon). At some point they all agreed to look identical whenever they visited their grandpa, so he wouldn’t worry about them drifting apart.

Gramps ends up coming in their room, so Fuu has to hide under the kotatsu, and identifies the real Fake Itsuki who spoke to him in the lobby by the bruise on her leg. However, because all of the quints in the room are disguised as Itsuki, he doesn’t know to which quint that leg belongs!

As Fuu continues his investigation, Nino takes Ichika aside to to bathe together, hoping to pick Ichika’s brain about what next steps to take with the guy she likes, describing with wonderful self-awareness how she came to love her “prince”. Of course, Nino is blissfully unaware that Ichika also likes him, and heard her confession to him.

Even Ichika’s best attempts to slow her down end in failure, as Nino makes it clear she’d step over whoever else liked Fuu to get with him. Would she say that if she knew Ichika (or Miku) were that other person? At present, Nino is committed to doing more to get Fuu’s attention, including meeting with him that night and hugging or even kissing him.

Ichika feels powerless to stop her, and even agrees to run interference for their dad so Nino can slip away! She asserts to herself that because she’s such a “coward”, her love for Fuutarou is no match for Nino’s. It’s basically her lowest point yet, where she’s actively working against her interests in deference to someone who made it clear she wouldn’t do the same. That’s when Yotsuba finds her in the hallway, crying.

The two climb up to the roof—an old hiding spot of theirs from years past—and when Yotsuba sneezes from the cold, Ichika lends her her robe. Yotsuba reminisces how Ichika was once the prank-pulling “mean bully” who’d always takes things from the others with impunity—basically the opposite of what she is now: feeling afraid and unworthy of taking Fuu from Nino.

Then their mom died, Itsuki was hit hardest, and Ichika decided there and then that she had to be The Big Sister. Yotsuba tells Ichika how she’s always saw her as her dear big sister, and how she wants her to do what she wants. For Ichika, right now, that’s for things to remain in the “comfort zone”, where Fuu isn’t “taken” by any of them.

Buoyed by Yotsuba’s words, the last two things Ichika does are in her own interest: taking back the robe she lent Yotsuba, and not distracting their dad so Nino can talk to Fuu. We’ll see if Nino shrugs off Ichika not coming through for her at what for her was a crucial opportunity to impress her feelings upon her Prince.

That brings us back to Fuu himself, who has noticed the quints’ grandfather has no trouble telling them apart. When pressed, Gramps tells him there’s no silver bullet or trick to it, it’s just a matter of learning their mannerisms, voices, and subtle habits, which he says are basically “tantamount to love”. This, of course, leads gramps to ask him why he needs to tell them apart. If he truly can’t, can he honestly say he has the “commitment to face them in good faith?”

Fuu accepts that challenge the next morning, when unbeknownst to him, Miku has already come clean with Itsuki about being the Fake Itsuki. She wanted to end their student-teacher relationship so it could change into something new. Unlike Ichika, she doesn’t want to stay in the comfort zone. So Itsuki tells Miku to meet Fuu one more time as Fake Her.

Fuu uses the process of elimination to narrow it down to Ichika or Miku, and when she gets her to say “Itsuki-chan”, he guesses she’s Ichika, because only she uses “-chan” with Itsuki. Miku pretends he’s right, holding back tears that then start to fall once her back is turned. But then Fuu realizes she is Miku, causing her to run into his arms so fast her Itsuki wig falls off and she tackles him to the ground!

Fuu then goes on to explain his further reasoning for why Miku might be mad—because he never got around to giving her anything in return after Valentines Day. Then he asks why she wanted him to quit, and she tells him to forget it. He’s a teacher, she’s a student, and that doesn’t have to change. She’s just grateful he guessed correctly.

That leads to another strange cliffhanger-like ending, where before Fuutarou and the Nakanos depart from the onsen, someone in white, almost wedding-like shoes runs at him at full speed, causing him to grab the nearby bell for support. This, after gramps confirmed his daughter, the quints’ mother, was named Rena—the same name as the mysterious girl he saw when he fell in the water. To be continued, I guess!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Eight Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Miku: Her bitterness about Fuu not guessing correctly, immediately followed by her pure unbridled joy, was one hell of an emotional roller coaster! She definitely caused Fuutarou to think about the “love” gramps talked about. Total Points: 22 (Tied for 3rd)
  2. Yotsuba: Who’d have guessed she was the maverick who first changed her appearance? In both explaining the Fake Itsukis and her heart-to-heart with Ichika, Yots seems content to let things with the others play out before making whatever move she has planned…if any. Total Points: 22 (Tied for 3rd)
  3. Ichika: I think she’s finally reached the bottom of her well of defeatism and may be starting to claw her way out. It’s still not looking good, but at least she hasn’t given up on what she wants. Total Points: 21 (5th)
  4. Itsuki: Was instrumental both in getting Fuu to find out why the others were upset, as well as hearing Miku out and having her try one more time. Just an all-around great sis! Total Points: 26 (2nd)
  5. Nino: As she was thwarted from doing anything more with/to Fuu, Nino was relegated to a passive role this week. If Fuu doesn’t make the next move—and he shows no signs of doing so—she may have to try something. Was that her in the white shoes throwing herself at him? Total Points: 29 (1st)

 

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 19 – Commencement of Hostilities

The War for Fuutaro begins not with a whimper, but with the bang of a two-stroke engine and the flash of a headlamp. Nino, ready to give up on Fuu once and for all, tells her stepdad she and her sisters are going to keep living on their own a while. Stepdad is poised to shit on the new home they made, but Nino is rescued by Fuutarou, her white knight on his motorbike steed.

Motorbike rides through the city are tailor-made for romantic scenes, as Nino is literally embracing Fuu from behind, and they’re all alone on their buzzing island. So after she finds his exam scores in his pocket (the lowest he’s ever had, though he doesn’t blame them) and he’s thinking about the end of their student-teacher relationship, Nino shoots her shot, telling him she loves him.

Fuutarou doesn’t react at all, which both confuses and frustrates Nino as they join the other sisters. There are other signs of hostilities commencing between sisters even as they share bites of their disparate deserts as thanks for helping each other out. Ichika realizes Miku said she’d confess if she had the highest scores, but Ichika got them…so does that mean it’s okay for her to confess?

As Miku seemingly shot herself in the foot with her wager and Ichika wavers, Nino keeps going for it, joining Fuutarou in the back and even helping wash the dishes with him, another lovely domestic activity. On her way out, she tells him to forget what she said on the bike, that it must’ve troubled him and she went too fast.

In response, Fuutarou genuinely asks: What is she talking about? He couldn’t hear whatever she said on the bike due to the wind. She tells him never mind and scoots off, seemingly glad he didn’t hear her since it means things can go back to the way they were. But then Nino, and QQ, does something I didn’t expect: she marches right back to the kitchen and tells him she loved him.

She has him recall her saying there’s one girl on the planet who’d fall for him, saying “That girl is me. Too bad for you!” Just excellent stuff. I’m so proud of Nino. Poor Ichika can only listen in horror from behind the wall.

Nino says she doesn’t expect a response, but if I were Fuutarou, not giving one wouldn’t sit right with me. Alas, he’s so thrown for a loop he’s unsure how to proceed, and her confession just sits out there. A day or so later Fuu encounters Miku at a supermarket she insists she went to not to see him, but…to enter into a contest with a grand prize of tickets to an onsen.

Because of that white lie, and all the more practical lesser prizes, both Miku and Fuu enter into the contest…and to their mutual surprise, both of them win! While Fuu takes his family and looks forward to being away from the quints to rest and think on things, he learns the quints are on vacation with their stepdad, who’d prefer if it was a vacation away from Fuu.

Nino approaches Fuu like it’s no big dealio, and it’s not—for her! She did what none of the other quints who like him had the courage to do: risk everything by making those feelings plain. With the ball in his court, Nino can relax and keep pushing to become “girlfriend material”. When she calls him Fuutarou, Miku immediately perks up. Also, Itsuki wants to speak to Fuu later.

That night, Fuu finds a note in his cubby saying “courtyard, midnight”, but finds Itsuki in the lobby instead. She asks him straight-up what he thinks their relationship with them (the sisters) is. When he uses the tired “partners” line, she says it’s time to “put and end” to that relationship. Confused and distraught, Fuu takes hold of Itsuki…and gets flipped head-over-heels by the old man at the desk—who is the quints’ grandfather!

The next morning, Fuu calls Itsuki, who assures him she never met with him last night. They meet at the baths, where Fuu tells her about the impostor, who I’m guessing was Miku (because it sounded most like her). Whoever it was, they were trying to do what Nino was initially going to do: separate from him altogether to avoid the heartbreak of rejection.

Right on cue, Nino prepares to join Fuu in the mixed bath (Itsuki is over on the women’s side), but Fuu, having been fooled last night, ruins things by asking her who she is, even though he was pretty sure it was Nino. Itsuki tells him she wanted to ask why the others are acting so odd, something even the typically dense Fuu has noticed.

When Fuu says they’re not “partners” working toward the same goal anymore, Itsuki corrects him: after all they’ve been through, can’t they both admit that what they truly are now is plain old friends? For Itsuki and Fuu, perhaps. But for those who have fallen in love with him, it’s not that simple.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Seven Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Nino: Comes out with guns blazing, but all of these early victories make me fear that she’s being set up for some kind of fall down the road. The future aside, the motorbike ride, kitchen re-confession, and mixed bath visit were all sublime. I recommend Fuu marry this girl yesterday. Total Points: 28 (1st)
  2. Itsuki: Seems to be cementing her role as Fuu’s trusty pal and confidante, as well as continuing her role as Ambassador to the United Quintuplets. If this is a long-game strategy, she hasn’t shown her hand, but hey, they’re talking! Total Points: 24 (2nd)
  3. Miku: Between losing to Ichika at exams and to Nino at…everything else, Miku seems to be in dire straits. At the same time, she hasn’t given up yet… Total Points: 17 (5th)
  4. Ichika: …Which is more than I can say for this one. Ichika continues to harbor a negative, defeatist attitude. She couldn’t capitalize on the opening Miku gave her because she was waiting for someone to tell her if it was okay to act. Then again, there wasn’t much she could have done against Nino. Total Points: 18 (Tied for 3rd)
  5. Yotsuba: If it wasn’t Miku disguised as Itsuki in the lobby, maybe it was Yotsuba. It’s how I explain why recedes into the shadows after the bakery celebration. I’m not really sure what (if anything) she’s up to, but it’s not happening on-screen. Total Points: 18 (Tied for 3rd)

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 10 – A Life of Firsts

This week we get four more cozy, sweet, heartwarming, adorable, feel-good slice-of-life segments with Nasa, Tsukasa, and the Arisugawas. Tonikawa has long since established itself as a wonderfully earnest crowd-pleasing show, and continues to not let me down!

Fry, Don’t Buy—Nasa and Tsukasa’s temporary new home was previously used to store all of Kaname and Aya’s dad’s “nerd crap”, but the couple is welcome to whatever useful items they find. The result is a thoroughly “old-fashioned” living space complete with huge CRT TV.

Tsukasa prepares tonkatsu for dinner, a favorite of mine, and Nasa is again shocked and impressed by his wife’s culinary skill. Nasa’s a super-utilitarian person, and was raised with rice cookers and a “buy-not-fry” mentality, but Tsukasa shows him the rewards of an honestly home-cooked meal. Nasa, in turn, feeds Tsukasa some delicious melon for dessert.

A Model Home—A favorable update to their living sitch, his landlord is rebuilding and they’re welcome to move back in with the same rent and no deposit. They even arranged a model room for Nasa and Tsukasa to inspect before making a decision, and they are surprised to find it’s an ultra-luxurious apartment with a bird’s-eye-view of the city.

Tsukasa sits in the huge bathtub with a view and the two get red-cheeked over the prospect of sharing a big bed together, but in the back of their heads they’re always wondering if this was really meant to be the model room for them to look at. Turns out it isn’t—their landlord made an error—but the couple isn’t disheartened. Big or small, new or old, home for Tsukasa will be wherever Nasa is. He feels the same way.

Helping out at the Bath—Kaname opens this segment, going over her morning routine of getting up at 5:30 to clean and prepare the bath for customers before heading to school. Tsukasa offers her services as thanks for her continuing kindness and hospitality, and shows she’s just as highly competent at cleaning as cooking.

In cleaning the entire men’s side of the baths, Tsukasa comes to admire Kaname for the hard work she does every day. Kaname comes to understand why Nasa loves her, and they adopt informal nicknames and by morning’s end are officially friends. Aya, on the other hand, laments the prospect of being shunted off to a spin-off.

An Evening Stroll—After Nasa declares after thorough mathematical analysis that his favorite food is curry, he and Tsukasa head to the store to buy some curry powder and decide to make an evening stroll of it. A cheeky Kaname and Aya’s mom tells Nasa about a nice quiet secluded park where he can make out with Tsukasa, adding some spice to their marriage after buying spice.

Ultimately, Tsukasa declines Nasa’s offer to kiss, since they both just ate garlicky steamed buns from the store. Nasa doesn’t care (and indeed most people who love each other don’t really care about mildly bad breath) but she’s self-conscious about it. So instead, Nasa suddenly embraces Tsukasa from behind, both surprising and exciting her.

He asks her how her married life is going so far, and she remarks on how many firsts she’s experienced with him and will continue to experience—among those being the intimate position they’re currently in. She looks forward to experiencing more firsts with him, and Nasa doubtlessly feels likewise.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 09 – New Digs, New Threads

As  foreshadowed last week, Nasa doesn’t lose much when they return home to find the apartment building burned down. All his valuable paperwork and data is either at the bank or in the cloud, and he not only has renter’s insurance, but a full grasp on what’s needed to make a claim. Tsukasa marvels at how much Nasa keeps proving why she loves him so much.

It’s not just because he keeps a cool head and doesn’t express anger or regret in the face of what would be a disaster for most people. It’s that the first thing on his mind is that everyone else in the building was okay (they are). The only possession that survived was the tree commemorating their marriage, which can easily be transplanted.

When Nasa and Tsukasa head to the bathhouse to have a nice long soak and consider what’s next, Kaname ends up offering a detatched house on their property where they can stay until they find a suitable new place. Nasa thinks it’s good luck, but Tsukasa knows otherwise: by being someone so kind and well-liked, people are quick to help someone like Nasa.

Kaname does consider one potential problem: now that Nasa and Tsukasa are staying on the Arisugawa’s property, the time will come when Aya finally realizes Tsukasa isn’t just any “relation” of Nasa’s, but his wedded wife. In the end, no amount of hints can crack Aya’s Airhead A.T. Field, but Kaname and Aya’s mom just comes right out and says it.

Aya starts to go into a flashback about Nasa, her first and only love, but her mom cuts her short. As someone whose own husband cheated on her and left her for a younger woman, Aya’s mom wants her to do whatever she needs to do—cut her hair, go to school abroad (on her own dime), whatever—to get over it and move on.

Aya knows that in times of heartbreak one should hold their head high, so she does so and congratulates Nasa and Tsukasa, then considers becoming a YouTube idol…an idea quickly shot down by everyone.

Nasa and Tsukasa may be set with a new place to live for the time being, but Tsukasa did lose quite a bit of her wardrobe in the fire. That means it’s time to go to the laundromat, but the new husband and wife quickly become embarrassed over the prospect of handling one another’s…unmentionables.

They decide to go to the ‘mat together, and watch their clothes mingle in the wash together, something that’s so mundane and yet also so intimate. Tsukasa also lets slip that under her tracksuit she’s not wearing any underwear, since it’s all in the wash. Not wanting to make a big public display of affection, Nasa instead snaps a picture…and draws Tsukasa’s ire.

At the end of the day, what’s called for is a clothes shopping trip, and not to the department store’s discount clothes section, but to Harajuku, a place Nasa has neither ever been to shop. He gets to see Tsukasa try on one cute outfit after another, and even a few outfits he picks out for her, revealing his girly side.

When the time comes to buy underwear, Tsukasa initially holds Nasa’s hand, but changes her mind and deposits him on a bench, instructing him to simply not look like someone who should be arrested. When their shopping is done, Nasa makes, as Kaname calls it, another manly “move”, asking Tsukasa if, at some point, he, her husband, would be able to see her in her underwear.

She turns beet red and turns away, but doesn’t reject the request out of hand; in fact, she says he can see “as much as he wants”. Of course, that won’t be much for the foreseeable future; the two are so embarrassed by the subject being broached that they drop it immediately so they can then shop for clothes for Nasa. Still, it’s a good thing those questions are being posed. They are married, after all!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 08 – Nostalgic in Nara

The big day (well, evening) has arrived: It’s time for Tsukasa to meet the parents! When they arrive in Nara, she notes that they’re near the Kasuga Grand Shrine, making the unusual comment that “even after a thousand years, it’s not like the mountains move that much.” I guess she was here back then, huh?

Anywho, Nasa’s parents, Kanoka and Enishi both claim to not be quite emotionally prepared for something as momentous as meeting their son’s new wife, but his dad proves he’s a bit odd when, right in the middle of official introductions he basically orders Nasa to take a bath. He wants to talk with Tsukasa alone for a sec. But about what?

In Nasa’s room where he only ever stayed when he helped his folks move, Tsukasa notes the lack of material possessions, mirroring his apartment, and Nasa proudly proclaims he’d be fine even if their apartment building burned down, because all of his irreplaceable possessions and data are either on him, in a safe deposit box, or on his person.

Nasa’s mom warns him that while the walls are “pretty soundproof”, he and Tsukasa probably shouldn’t “overdo it”…causing Nasa to realize he’ll be spending his first night sleeping on the same level as Tsukasa. He offers his arm for her to sleep on and learns how painful a position can be, and Tsukasa gives him a sweet goodnight kiss when prompted.

Tsukasa ends up waking up early, since Nasa was too excited to sleep much (also, Tsukasa curled up beside him during her nighttime acrobatics). That said, he’s only pretending to be asleep so he doesn’t disturb her while she’s changing, and a momentary glance at her proves “too stimulating”.

Watching the sun rise, Tsukasa notes how the smell of the wind “really takes her back”. When her father can’t think of what to talk about with her, she suggests he show her his office, where she’s able to read ancient Japanese love letter without any trouble.

From there, Tsukasa decides to spice up their historical sightseeing by taking photos of her cute husband; eventually, he suggests they take one together, which is surely a picture they’ll both treasure.

Tsukasa is unusually knowledgeable about Nara’s landmarks—almost as if she were around when some of them were first built—and wistfully observes how many thousands of ordinary people faded from history, while modern technology will allow people to be remembered virtually forever.

We eventually learn why Nasa’s dad made him take a bath: it was so he could properly thank Tsukasa for saving his son’s life. Nasa’s parents feel almost undeserving of a son as great as Nasa; he is their pride and joy, which is why his finding love could only give them happiness.

Tsukasa takes her father-in-law’s request that she look after Nasa very seriously. On the bus ride home, Tsukasa admits that while it was fun to visit his folks, she’s looking forward to returning to their little place together, where she feels most at ease.

Unfortunately, while they were gone, the entire apartment building…burned down! 

Even if they were going to hold off on moving, now they have to find a new place. But with his parents’ enthusiastic blessing of their marriage, that shouldn’t be a problem. As for whether Tsukasa is the human incarnation of Princess Kaguya, well…the evidence continues to mount and is getting harder to overlook!

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 07 – Matrimonial Proof

As she and the maids observe the happy couple from a bush, Chitose declares without evidence that Tsukasa and Nasa’s honeymoon will end in divorce. Each time she believes the first crack in the armor has appeared, Tsukasa and Nasa quickly make up and continue being lovey-dovey.

TONIKAWA is many things: cute, endearing, heartwarming, pure…but is also very often quite funny, consistently delivering some of the better jokes of a Fall 2020 season that’s light on comedies. For instance, I enjoyed Tsukasa scolding Nasa for settling for a chain restaurant at the food court while ordering something local and bold, only to be thoroughly disappointed in her choice.

Does Nasa gloat to her? Nope! He tastes it (she feeds him) and agrees with her, then snaps a cute photo of her sour face after biting into a lime. Even when she’s cross about this and demands he “regain her favor”, he proceeds to do just that. As the maids observe, the couple’s micro-arguments only serve to make them a closer, cuter couple.

With the passive approach not working, Chitose reveals her presence to Tsukasa and reprimands her for being “in such a place” and falling for “such a guy”. Tsukasa retreats back to the bus with Nasa, but not because of Chitose; she wants to avoid appearing in the same morning show that burned her with the lime udon.

In a nice bit of irony, the maids enjoy the honest grub of the food court as much as Tsukasa and Nasa, and are in no hurry to pick up the chase (their luxury car can easily catch up to the bus). In the payoff of the morning show joke, someone declares the lime udon to be great…even though it wasn’t anything special!

Still, the words Nasa heard Chitose yell: “Why did you marry that guy?” still ring in Nasa’s ears. Tsukasa chalks it up to a marriage rarely involving only the two people getting married, but with the insinuation that you can’t please everyone; particularly Chitose.

The next morning Nasa wakes up on Tsukasa’s shoulder to find they’ve arrived in Kyoto. Calculating that they have a half-day of sightseeing in Kyoto before taking the train to Nara, Nasa asks Tsukasa where she’d like to go first, and she suggests a bakery or café. In a fun reversal, Nasa is as passionately opposed as she was to him ordering chain beef bowl at the rest area.

He beseeches her to avail herself of Kyoto’s unique attractions, which leads to her suggestion of visiting the Manga Museum, so he resorts to rapping to tell her Kyoto’s all about the history and culture. She relents, and decides to look the part by dressing traditionally. Unsurprisingly considering her still-unknown true age and origin, she knows exactly how to put on the kimono without assistance.

Just when she and Nasa are ready for sightseeing, Chitose arrives, flanked by her maids, resembling a trio of old-timey anime villains (which anime I am not sure). If Chitose’s goal is to judge Nasa’s worthiness to be married to Tsukasa, Nasa suggests they have a talk so he can provide what she needs. Charlotte and Aurora agree to take Tsukasa to the cafe and Manga Museum.

While going into the episode I was dreading the constant interruption of the happy couple’s honeymoon by an interfering brat, I’m actually really glad Chitose showed up in Kyoto! For one thing, it shows that Tsukasa and Nasa can and really should split off at times and do their own thing; independence is key to a lasting marriage.

More importantly, Nasa is able to demonstrate to Chitose that Tsukasa didn’t choose him on a whim; he truly is a prepared, thoughtful, and positive fellow, i.e. precisely Tsukasa’s type. The fruits of his extensive research of Kyoto leads to an enjoyable fake date for Chitose…even if she doesn’t openly admit it to him.

Charlotte and Aurora aren’t particularly tactful in asking Tsukasa about why she married Nasa, but they’d prefer to stop hounding her, so anything that will get Chitose off her back would help. Tsukasa starts by blushing up a storm and simply saying Nasa is “just…really cute”, and as she describes Nasa the maids realize that yup, he’s exactly her type.

But that’s not enough for Chitose, who knows a whole lot more about Tsukasa than he does, and ultimately feels it comes down to her having been in Tsukasa’s life first, and it’s not fair that an interloper should “claim” her. Yet even when Nasa learns for the first time that Tsukasa is athletic, he isn’t disheartened; he’s delighted!

When Nasa tells Chitose that Tsukasa saved his life, Chitose replies that Tsukasa saved hers as well—whether she means literally and how remain to be seen. Then Nasa tells her he felt—and feels—lucky, not because she saved his life, but because he met her. Then he launches into a monologue about math—but not to prove his love of Tsukasa to Chitose!

The Drake Equation, used to determing the likelihood of extraterrestrial planets, was modified to express the likelihood of finding the person you’re “fated to be with”. In both cases, the likelihood is 0.0000034%. But the moment he met her, he knew he’d beaten the odds. He’d found someone he felt he’d been searching for since before he was born.

He then mentions concepts like prime numbers and gravitational waves, which were intuited by scientists long before they were scientifically proven. In that same vein, he didn’t marry Tsukasa because he’d already proven his love for her, but because he intends to spend his entire life proving it, day by day. Chitose may yet still be swayed by the bitterness of “losing” Tsukasa to Nasa, but after that presentation she doesn’t have much of a logical argument to oppose the marriage.

Nasa’s worthiness to be with Tsukasa and vice versa is not in question, except for those like Chitose who are driven by personal interest and emotion. And Nasa assures Tsukasa that if his parents aren’t sure about their marriage, then he’ll simply convince them. It’s all part and parcel of his lifelong effort to prove his love is real. Anyone doubting his commitment or discounting his track record do so at their peril!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 06 – Benefits of a Bigger Place

Nasa is endlessly fascinated by his wife Tsukasa’s “ferality” while asleep. Her tied-up hair always comes loose, her covers are always strewn about, and when she half-consciously gets a glass of water, sometimes he steals his sheets.

Only one night, she gets into bed with him, leading to him being the big spoon to her little. In such a close embrace, you’d think she’d be upset upon suddenly awakening…but instead she leans in for a kiss, and before Nasa knows it, she’s rolled off his bed and back onto her futon.

Nasa ends up not sleeping a wink after the incident, but he becomes very gung-ho about getting a bigger bed they can share (being on the same “surface level” with one’s wife is important). That leads to discussion of getting a bigger place: one with a dedicated living room, sofa, and bath.

Tsukasa likes the intimate space they share, which enables her to remain close to her darling at all times, but when he accidentally walks in on her changing, she becomes more open to discussing a move…especially when Nasa carefully presents the pros that appeal to her most: like a projection system for movies and built-in shelving for her DVDs and manga.

But getting a new place means securing a guarantor, which is currently Nasa’s parents. Both he and the show seem to realize at the same time that he has yet to inform his parents he’s married. The resulting phone call doesn’t go too bad, and he and Tsukasa decide it best to visit them so they can meet her.

Because they live in Nara by way of Kyoto, Nasa sees this as a perfect opportunity for them to go on an official honeymoon. Tsukasa concurs, but first procures a digital camera, but not for sightseeing: she wants them to keep a daily secret record of their lives, to remind them that each day with someone they love is precious. Daaaaaaw. The two proceed to take lovingly candid pics of one another.

While Nasa assured her they could afford the faster Shinkansen, Tsukasa is fine, and indeed excited by the prospect of a bus adventure, citing that it once took two weeks on foot to get to where they’re going…150 years ago. More evidence that she’s Kaguya, or is she just a big ol’ wierdo?

The bus is clean, but the seats aren’t comfortable enough for Nasa to nap on. I know how he feels; I can’t sleep on most planes for the same reason. Naturally Tsukasa goes out like a light, and her husband marvels at her toughness and ability to adapt to suboptimal conditions without complaint. She’s also super excited for a midnight rest stop run for on-the-go food. I can’t argue with her there; I love that shit too!

Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to them so far, they are being tailed by Chitose and her two disapproving but duty-bound maids. Chitose is outraged Nasa is taking Tsukasa to meet his parents when she still hasn’t approved their marriage at all. That said, the bond between Nasa and Tsukasa doesn’t feel like something easily rent asunder by a mere honeymoon. It’s more likely Chitose will come around.

Halfway through the season, TONIKAWA has proven strikingly consistent, with four stars across the board and an excellent balance of romance, comedy. The only thing really keeping it from higher scores is its production values, which don’t exactly…shoot for the moon. That said, everything else about the show is so charming and warm and fuzzy and competent, it’s been easy to overlook its occasional visual shortcomings.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 05 – Any Old Ring Will Do

Tsukasa and Nasa’s marital bliss is suddenly, sharply interrupted by Tsukasa’s realization that Nasa doesn’t own a television. On one level, that’s quite admirable for a studious young man; on the other, if he’s going to be married to Tsukasa, there’s going to have to be a TV in the house, because she’s a TV and movie buff, with particular enthusiasm for the oeuvre of one James Cameron. But like her futon, she doesn’t need the best; a god cheap TV will do just fine.

While waiting for Tsukasa at the baths, Nasa tells Kaname that he proposed, though they don’t have rings yet. Kaname stops Nasa before he spews one of the three main husband clichés she so wonderfully proceeds to recite: that their wife doesn’t care about fancy trips, going out for fancy food, or fancy jewelry. Yet when Tsukasa emerges fresh from the bath, both she and Nasa exchange looks that suggest rings really aren’t necessary.

Nasa has to go in to work, which means leaving Tsukasa alone for the day. He feels bad about this, and can sense that she’s feeling a little lonely when they stop to sit on a lakeside bench in the park. That’s when the two both lean in for a long, sweet kiss—just as Chitose’s maids are ready to pounce on them anew. Where this scene kicks so much ass is that the kiss isn’t interrupted at the last second, and the maids don’t interfere. In fact, they aren’t seen again!

Instead, the balance of the episode centers on Nasa’s insistence he procure not one or two but three rings—an engagement ring for Tsukasa and wedding bands for the two of them—to serve as reminders of one another and symbols of their enduring love. The ever-practical Tsukasa only sees it as a waste of money…but just how much money remains unknown to Nasa.

She takes him to the fanciest jewelry store in a fancy district to try to dissuade him from his crusade, but Nasa harbors the foolish belief the brilliance and cost of the diamond must be proportional to the amount of love he feels for Tsukasa. The attendant’s sales pitch is so strong he almost liquidates all his assets. Worse still, when Tsukasa takes him to a budget jewelry store, he starts to think ¥680,000 is “cheap”—which I guess it is, after seeing ¥9,000,000 rings!

When Tsukasa discovers that Tsukasa is doing this far for her, so she won’t be lonely, she kisses him and tells him, essentially, that if they absolutely must have diamond wedding rings, the cheapest ones will do. They settle on a pair costing a total of ¥32,000—which is still a lot of money for “little rocks!”

But Nasa need not despair that the rings aren’t worthy of symbolizing their love. Tsukasa tells him every time she’ll look at her new ring she’ll remember the day he bought it for her, how kind he is, and how much he takes care of her, and those thoughts will make give the ring a surpassing shine that won’t fade. Nasa never had to buy the moon for Tsukasa. It’s the thought—and his love—that counts!

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 07 – Inner Fujoshi

Chio’s preference for Western-style hardcore shooting games puts her in rare company in Japan, such that she often has to pay extra to play them in Japanese. She also knows of only one konbini where a magazine covering those games is sold, until one day, it’s just not there.

Instead, there’s more BL game mags in its place. However, Chio’s lack of experience in the genre left her with the misconception all the L involves scrawny Japanese Bs. What ultimately sells her is the type of hardened assassin she loves to play in her western games.

Chio has discovered an exciting new world, but she has to interact with her old friend Andou in order to purchase it. She tries to make the mag less pervy by sticking chocolates on the shirtless ad guy’s nipples, but that only makes things worse, so she builds a kind of crop tank top.

Andou is initially distracted by the free driving school catalog Chio originally used to cover the BL mag, thanks in part to a coincidental “BL” in Chio’s email address, Andou gets wise to her purchase despite her efforts, though he makes it clear he’s not judging!

I must not have had a very eventful childhood, because me and my friends never played a game in which we tried to stick our fingers up each other’s butts. However, this seems to be a thing in Japan, and it’s explored in a gross but fun segment in which a girl from a rich middle school challenges Chio and Manana to a duel in; a challenge they initially ignore.

The girl forces the issue by zapping Manana, and is then surprised to find Chio has formidable skills (having had a crappy middle school life herself). But it’s ultimately Manana coming from behind to exact payback. Chio ties off her thumbs and holds her captive in the park to try to discern her motives.

As far as they’re concerned, the girl’s goal is to leave no ass unplugged. She slips out of her bind and gets Manana again. Chio is then given a handicap when the two end up in the middle of a busy part of the park, surrounded by adults and kids. Chio has to be careful about what she does to the girl here; the girl has no such compunctions.

This puts Chio on the defensive, and she ultimately proves her own worst enemy when she backs herself right into a broken protruding tree branch. However, the girl isn’t able to deliver the coup-de-grace, as she’s snatched up by Kushitori, who is still training in the park.

She offers her own ample posterior for the girl’s punishment, then delivers a thoughtful lecture on respecting each other’s bodies. The girl is initially charmed by Kushitori, but Chio snaps her out of it and she leaves having learned nothing.

In the final segment, which is just a quickie but says a lot, Manana and Chio spot a lonely-looking old woman sitting by what used to be a hydrangea patch in the forest, but is now built-up with concrete, glass and steel. They lament how modern society has trampled on the memories of previous generations.

Turns out their romantic imagining of it being the spot where she and her love met was nothing but a fiction. In reality, the woman is slumped over playing an addictive game on her phone. She’s in that particular spot because she can steal free wi-fi from the cafe nearby. When a barista comes out to shoo her away, she chews him out in kind, shattering the girls’ romanticized dreams.

Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – 09

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In addition to getting a win and advancing due to Ayase’s forfeiture, Ikki also gets a week off with Stella at a mountain hotel. Thankfully, we’re well past the point that one or the other must use this golden opportunity to confess their love—they’re already lovers. Rather, it’s more an opportunity for the two to see just how much trouble they can get into, and find out what kind of lovers they’re going to be.

Alas, it also turns out the director tricked them; at least part of their “vacation” consists of helping the Student Council clean the hotel. I maintain the Student Council are all a bunch of shallow cliches with silly exaggerated designs, but it’s good to know they’re not really evil, and as a group bouncing off one another, they’re fun enough.

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…Just not as fun as watching Stella and Ikki when no one else is around. Stella wants to go see a gorgeous waterfall an hour’s walk away, but she didn’t eat enough in the morning, gets tired and weak, and eventually shows symptoms of a cold. Then it starts to rain, and Ikki postpones the waterfall trip and seeks out shelter. Almost too conveniently, they find a clean, unoccupied cabin with a hearth.

Soaking wet and coming down with a fever, the best thing for Stella is to get her clothes off so she can get warm and dry. Ikki knows it’s probably embarassing, so he strips first. It’s a kind and very Ikki gesture, and reminds Stella how they met, with him seeing “everything” right from the start. She doesn’t look on that day with scorn, but with a smile.

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In the firelight, with Stella sweating and breathing heavily, there’s no way to make this situation not incredibly sexy for both parties. Ikki attempts to keep things “businesslike”, but after unclasping her stockings and bra, Ikki pitches a tent; one that Stella not only notices, but is happy she excites him so, especially when he’s exciting her so much. After a pause that lasts seemingly forever during which only the fire snaps and pops, Stella finally puts the question to Ikki: “Do you wanna do it with me?”

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But that doesn’t lead to any slow dissolves, tasteful panning, or overdramatic score drowning out sex noises. In fact, Ikki is taken aback, asking if she’s sure what she’s saying. Without skipping a beat, Stella looks seriously and calmly at Ikki and says she does; she wants him, he wants her, and if he wants, they can have each other right here and now. Stella may be the instigator by posing the question, but she understands the choice of whether to proceed belongs to both of them.

Ikki says no, but it’s not because he doesn’t want to. For one thing, she’s exhausted and needs to rest, but beyond that, Ikki is thinking about their future—both their futures, not just his. Even if you don’t quite agree with Ikki’s somewhat conservative views on the matter, you can still understand his decision as part in parcel of the careful life he has to lead, whether it’s not getting into useless fights, or not risking getting the girl he loves pregnant in a fit of passion just because all the circumstances align.

It’s not that Stella isn’t being clear-headed, or Ikki is being a prude. It’s somewhere in between, which makes it a far more interesting situation. Stella isn’t just disappointed Ikki turned her down this time; she’s also happy he’s so serious about their relationship. This isn’t just a fling for him. She also surprises herself again with her “naughtiness”, though I sensed more acceptance of, rather than shame about, that side of her.

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In any case, they got as close as you could physically and emotionally get to going all the way, and you have to tip your hat to RKC for going there and not giving us easy or one-dimensional answers or resolutions. And from a practical perspective, it’s good they didn’t get into it, because they would have been rudely (and probably painfully) interrupted by a giant stone golem smashing the cabin.

Again, RKC and Asterisk echo one another when this attacking monster splits into several smaller versions of itself when Ikki cuts it, meaning a central controlling element must be taken out to stop it from reviving. Ikki isn’t able to find it, and nearly loses Stella while fighting when the Student Council shows up to rescue them. A very discreet Student Council that doesn’t ask too many questions about why Stella is in such as state of undress and whatnot!

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Even the council finds their backs up against the wall, until their long-talked-about but previously unseen president arrives and takes the golem—and his controller, many miles away—down with authority. The glasses-wearing, twin-braid redhead is named Toudou Touka (not to be confused with Asterisk’s Toudou Kirin), and she makes an immediate impression as a capable badass who naturally was one of the final four in the last Seven Star. Heck, her attacks even dissolve the letterboxingin a subtle visual breaking of the fourth wall.

As for the gangster-type guy who arranged the golem attack, I don’t much care for him at all, but wonder if he’s specifically after Ikki on behalf of the Kuroganes, or more interesting working against them (and the Kurogane clan having to put on a front of loathing to protect Ikki all this time)

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Mercifully, Shizuku isn’t quite obsessive enough to have snuck on the bus with Stella and Ikki and stalked them on their trip (though it would have been somewhat interesting if she had been the one to save them from the golem, I don’t think she could have handled peeking through the window as the lovers stripped and sweated). Instead, she goes home to her big, cold sad room in the big, cold, sad Kurogane Manor, where she’s summoned by her big, cold, sad father.

Her dad claims to want to know how Shizuku is doing, so had her mother write a letter to her on his behalf. In addition to being insulted by being tricked into coming, Shizuku is pissed that her father won’t even speak of Ikki, even though like her he’s won twelve matches in a row without a loss.

He’s quick to express his pride in her, but not Ikki, so she rejects his pride, along with whatever excuses he has for treating her brother like garbage for so long. (Of course, if there is a good reason Ikki’s family does that, which Shizuku isn’t aware of, it would be nice to hear about it.)

This is actually Shizuku at her best, “behind enemy lines”, where the enemy is the entire rest of her family who treat Ikki like an inconvenient eyesore, and taking the fight to that enemy. If they’re not going to treat Ikki like they treat her, she’d rather they treat her like Ikki, and go to the devil while they’re at it. Going home made Shizuku mad, which is why its such perfect timing that her next match will be against Toudou Touka, in a battle of water vs. lighting.

9_ses