Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro 2nd Attack – 05 – Senpai Down!

Naoto and Hayase aren’t fooling anyone. Certainly not their friends, who catch them red-handed—or rather, holding hands with fingers intertwined. It doesn’t matter if it was technically an accident; it was the result of them messing around trying to grab one anothers’ sleeves. This isn’t one-sided teasing, it’s just plain PDA!

Last week portended a reversal of Naoto’s house visit to Nagatoro, and sure enough, Naoto wakes up one morning feeling like crap. His mom (whom we meet for the first time) has a work trip but offers to stay home for his sake, but he says he’s not a little kid anymore. Now we know where he gets his fuwafuwa hair!

When Hayase can’t find Naoto at school and texts then calls him, she learns that Naoto is home, having caught her cold. Two shakes of a black cat’s tail later, she’s ringing his doorbell. Then, worried he might’ve passed out (just like he was about her) she enters his yard and presses against the screen door. Once she’s in his room (which he notes is weird), she immediately begins searching for porn, as you do!

When he protests and starts coughing uncontrollably, Hayase calls of the search…for today. She’s here not just to return the favor, but because she wants to care for and pamper her senpai. This is the perfect scenario for her to get closer to him in any number of ways, including tenderly touching foreheads to check his temperature.

She cools him down with a cold compress, then makes him some rice porridge, which he allows her to feed to him without protest. At this point Naoto is very dizzy and out of it, and his dream of Hayase in a business suit acting as his doting wife bleeds into real life, to the point he thanks her and casually calls her by her first name, Hayase.

This obviously flusters Hayase to no end, but she’d probably been hoping he’d do it ever since he learned it from her sister. In fact, she wants to hear him call her Hayase again, but he’s fallen asleep again. This gives her the idea to kiss him, and she gives him every opportunity to stop her if he’s playing dead, drawing closer and closer…

until Naoto’s mom comes home. Hayase’s loafers are in the genkan, so even with her athletic ability, jumping out the window isn’t a viable option. So she heads down, encounters Senpai’s mom, and explains that she heard he was sick and came by to check on him. Like Hayase’s friends, Naoto’s mom wasn’t born yesterday! The next morning, Naoto is right as rain, and his mom asks about the flustered cutie.

When they meet up for the walk to school, Naoto and Hayase are uncharacteristically shy and awkward towards each other, and Hayase overcompensates by piling on the mock judo-kicking. Naoto grabs her leg to halt her attack, just when her upskirt is in full view. That’s the scene when Gamou, Yoshi, and Sakura approach, once again remarking how the lovebirds it again first thing in the morning.

I don’t ask much. I don’t need much. As long as Hayase and Naoto are being a delightfully sweet, playful, and adorable couple, I’m a happy camper! With the exchange of house visits, Don’t Toy with Me 2 continues to offer that in spades. I’m firmly ensconced in rom-com Laid Back Camp!

Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro 2nd Attack – 04 – Hayase

Once Nagatoro’s big sister, who Naoto calls “Anetoro”, realizes the famous “Senpai-kun” is here, she sees a perfect opportunity to toy with both him and her sister. It’s abundantly clear to her, an adult, that these two are absolutely a couple already, and are just been silly kids about it. Giving Naoto a glimpse of Nagatoro with bed head asking for pudding is a unique gift.

When Anetoro prods and lures her crankly little sister with a deluxe pudding bowl, it’s instructive to Naoto, because he’s able to witness Nagatoro with her defenses down. She can’t toy with him, because she’s being toyed with. The result is that Naoto gets to see a new side of the girl who, if he’s honest, he likes.

Indeed, once Nagatoro whisks him into her room to eat their pudding bowls without her sister’s interference, it’s clear that Naoto is not only ready and somewhat willing to slip back into his normal dynamic with Nagatoro, but can tell more than ever that her schtick is performative and not malicious. Toying with him has always been Nagatoro’s coping mechanism for showing affection.

She’s mortified when her sister sees her feeding Naoto, because she’d prefer to keep her thing with Naoto all to herself. It’s the same deal whenever her friends interfere or pry too much. She’s even willing to tell Senpai more about herself…if he can beat her at the video game they played before, and at which she’s been practicing.

While her improved play and ability to distract Senpai results in two straight wins, the decisive battle times out, and per their bet, the “secret” Naoto wants to learn is Nagatoro’s real first name. Not anything pervy. Nagatoro is caught off guard by the request, but realizes she’s never told him. But when she’s about to, he tells her he’d rather ask her fair and square than force her to by losing a bet. That ingratiates him with her even more.

And then, Anetoro goes and ruins their shit by bursting in and hollering her name—Hayase—and offering to show Naoto some albums of her when she was younger. She 1000% was eavesdropping, because this is surely the first and only boy Hayase has ever brought home, and she is also a Nagatoro, which means if someone can be messed with, you must mess with them!

Before departing, Hayase shows her genuine side first by thanking Naoto for checking on her and hanging out, then switches gears into Teasing Hayase by warning him that she’ll be back at school tomorrow to toy with him anew. Naoto’s comeback—”Have some mercy”, is delivered confidently, because he’s not loathing tomorrow; he’s looking forward to it. Also, now he knows her first name. If he ever needs to get her to simmer down with the aggressive teasing, he’s got that first-name bullet in the chamber.

We don’t have to wait till next week for Hayase to be back at school messing with Naoto, though when she strikes a Bruce Lee kicking pose and Naoto agrees they should go with that for his drawing, she has to hold that pose far longer than she had bargained for. Her thighs start barking at her, but she’s on pins and needles and can’t move. Then she stumbles and starts to fall.

Rather than hitting the ground, she lands on soft, fluffy Senpai. The two blush and scream and separate immediately, but it’s clear Hayase is impressed that he was able to move fast enough (and was bold enough) to break her fall. Of course, she covers that up with more teasing about whether he was trying to “get lucky”.

Then Naoto sneezes, and even before the preview confirmed it, I knew it would be Hayase’s turn to pay Naoto a house visit. After all, she just got over a cold, they just had a lot of contact with each other. It would be weird if he didn’t catch her cold!

Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro 2nd Attack – 03 – Tortoise and the Bunny Girl

This is a week of Naoto taking the initiative, which is progress! When Hayase heads to her homeroom for girl talk with her friends, she leaves her phone in the art clubroom. Rather than wait for her to come back, she heads down to the first-years’ hall and even asks one of them where Nagatoro’s classroom is.

It dawns on him he doesn’t know her first name beyond the “Hayacchi” nickname, but that’s enough for the girl to point him in the right direction. Unfortunately, when Hayase comes in with Sakura and two other friends, he panics, hides in the broom closet, and inadvertently eavesdrops.

It’s there where he hears Hayase reluctantly tell her friends that “her type” is someone she likes hanging out with. Someone…like Naoto? He ends up banging the side of the closet, and he’s lucky Hayase goes to check it out, distracts her friends, and gets him out of there.

Hayase thanks Naoto, but says he was being “actually creepy” in a very stern tone…and she’s right! Accident or not, Naoto shouldn’t be hiding in the broom closet of her classroom while she’s engaged in girl talk! This also pretty much confirms that when she says “creepy” and words like it, most of the time she doesn’t mean it.

Naoto wants to impress Hayase for once, so he actually practices running in preparation for the next school marathon. Unfortunately, he twists his ankle the night before, but it feels good enough to run the next day. That’s when Hayase and her friends catch up to him and challenge him to a race.

When the girls watch Sana running in bunny girl cosplay as performance art, they decide that they’ll help the tortoise (Naoto) beat the hare by giving him a boost. The train gets separated at a crosswalk, but Hayase and Naoto continue on their own.

When Naoto’s ankle barks at him again, Hayase can tell what’s up, and decides right then and there she’s not going to leave Senpai behind. She supports him and they walk in each others’ arms. When the pain gets worse, she insists he let her carry him on her back.

Naoto is impressed how far the tiny Hayase is able to carry him, but it becomes clear that even a “twiggy string bean” like him is a bit too much weight. Fortunately, Hayase’s pals meet back up, and propose a cavalry formation, with Paisen as the rider.

The combined strength of the four girls is enough to catch up to Sana. When she kicks into another gear, Yoshi takes point and makes herself big so the others are in her slipstream. They end up beating Sana to the finish, but are promptly disqualified for not running separately.

Nevertheless, it’s a wholesome and heartening exercise in which Hayase and her pals help Naoto out without any teasing, bullying, or insults. They’re just having fun out there!

Naoto’s final instance of taking the initiative is when Hayase doesn’t visit the club room for two straight days. Curious about her whereabouts (and apparently unable to message her) he asks Gamou and Yoshi, who are surprised he’s approaching them on his own for the first time.

They tell him Hayacchi has a cold, then do him a solid by handing him printouts to deliver. When no one answers the doorbell, Naoto worries Hayase is in dire straits and peeks in the window. As with delivering her phone to her classroom, good intentions lead to more “actually creepy” behavior.

This time he’s caught not by Hayase…but by her big sister! She snaps a photo and threatens to report him to the police, but he tells her he’s from Hayase’s school and has brought her printouts and a gift, the sister softens her stance, now that she’s finally in the presence of “the Senpai.” Clearly, she’s heard a bit about him!

Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro 2nd Attack – 02 – Her Favorite Animal

Sana-senpai pays Naoto a visit for the first time since the art festival, and suggests he go the zoo to reignite his passion for drawing, reminding him that love is the most important aspect of art. Hayase only catches the tail end of the conversation, in which Sana orders him to make Hayase “come with him.” She googles “zoo date” on her phone and gets super excited.

An awkward battle of wills ensues, in which Hayase blushes and eagerly awaits a proper invitation, and Naoto attempts the most roundabout, least propositional way to invite her. Eventually the right combination of words comes out of his mouth, enabling Hayase to say what she would have said no matter how he asked her: Yes.

When Hayase meets Naoto at the zoo, it looks every bit like the proper date, but she didn’t realize he invited her so they could draw animals. She’s initially grumpy, but when he offers to walk around with her instead, she decides to make lemonade. It’s also an opportunity to tease him into teaching her “hand-in-hand”, but she eventually get serious and has fun drawing.

Hayase’s drawings aren’t nearly as precise and realistic as Naoto’s, but they have an essential charm to them (like Hayase herself), and Naoto is honest when he tells her she’s getting much better, which brightens her up to no end. When she goes to the washroom, Naoto is approached by two annoying “it” people who start laughing at Hayase’s drawings. Naoto gets up and speaks up for Hayase, saying it’s wrong to laugh at people doing their best.

This only incurs the guy’s irritation, but before things get nasty Hayase comes to the rescue, asking what exactly the couple wants with his senpai. While she then tosses a flurry of insults at him for being such a wimpy wimp, the truth is she overheard him defending her, which truly touched her and led to her wanting to protect him that much more.

Before they leave for the day they agree to one more animal drawing. Naoto asks what Hayase’s favorite is, and she points to a sloth enclosure. But while Naoto draws the sloth up close, Hayase sketches further away, revealing that she was actually drawing him.

Naoto is sore about her teasing him once more, but on closer inspection he determines that while it’s not the best drawing, it’s drawn with care, further reinforcing Sana’s words about love being the most important element of art.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro 2nd Attack – 01 – Sushi Violation

Whether you identify as a Hayase or Naoto, if you liked the first season of Don’t Toy with Me, you’re in luck: the “second attack” isn’t rocking any boats. It also thankfully doesn’t push any reset buttons. Hayase still teases Naoto and calls him names, but the two are a lot closer after all their experiences last season.

Both that comfort and their dynamic is reflected back at them in the meta stinger, in which Naoto is reading about an underclassman who makes her student council president senpai her slave after she catches him cheating. Naoto identifies with the put-upon four-eyes, while Hayase identifies with the conniving kohai.

Another key part of the dynamic is that the embarrassment is never a one-way street. Hayase gets her wish when water is accidentally spilled on her new loafer. When Naoto stoops over, she panics: is he actually going to lick it off like the prez in the manga? But no, he just wipes it off with a hanky.

Naoto has also grown to the point where he actually considers taking the initiative in terms of suggesting things they can do together. This is undermined when he hesitates to greet her and she accuses him of acting like a stalker. This leads to a lesson in high school girl greetings, all of which involve either violence or close contact.

Naturally, Naoto messes up and trips while contemplating how to greet Hayase, and ends up accidentally copping a feel. When she shoves him back, he’s caught by Hayase’s friend Gamou, and we know Hayase always prefers to have Naoto to herself.

In the next segment she gets just that, whipping out a pair of black tights since it’s getting cold out. When she senses Naoto is a little disappointed he won’t get to see her bare legs as usual, she asks him to put them on for her. This is where Hayase once again gets more than she bargained for, as Naoto isn’t he only one who gets a little too excited by the ensuing close contact.

The reason for the tights is the two are going out to an after-party at a conveyor sushi restaurant with Gamou, Yoshi and Sakura. Hayase doesn’t put on any airs in inviting Naoto even though it’ll be him and four girls, and Naoto doesn’t hesitate to accept the invite.

Once there, he worries they only got him so he could work for them getting the sushi they want off the conveyor. But then Hayase leans over him to grab his preferred fish, and announces that everyone should treat him with respect and dignity “just for today” in acknowledgment of his hard work at the festival. They also treat him with their profits selling straps.

When the other girls make special sushi combos just for Naoto, and he exclaims that they’re all delicious, Hayase’s jealous side comes out, and she overcompensates by making a “dirty joke sushi” that puts everyone off (combining cod roe and soft roe to make a “pregnant sushi”).

But while the others make faces and comments that make Hayase blush with embarrassment, Naoto knows just what to do. He tastes the sushi she made for him, and what do you know, it’s good too! Like him, Hayase doesn’t always react the best to being teased, so it’s nice to see him have her back here.

I’m definitely glad these lovable goofballs are back in my life, and looking forward to Hayase devising new methods to toy with Naoto, Naoto unveiling new reaction noises, and the two generally becoming closer as a couple.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki – 03 – Adversity is the Greatest Uniter

Tsubaki is almost at the end of her kusari-fundo regarding the near-constant bickering between Sazanka and Asagao. That’s when Uikyou and Kikyou, the polar opposite of that pair, show up. Their speech and movements are so in sync, they might well be identical twins. They also offer the secret to getting along in scroll form.

The only catch? The scroll has to be taken from them. Tsubaki makes things interesting by tying Sazanka and Asagao together by the leg so they have no choice but to work together against their far-better coordinated opponents. Uikyou and Kikyou have no trouble slipping out of their grasp and making them look foolish.

Ultimately, Sazanka and Asagao stop arguing and start doing something that will help their odds. That means Sazanka clinging to the larger, stronger Asagao so the latter can move freely without worrying about the rope. Alas, the twins use sleep bell jutsu, and the two have to punch each other to stay awake.

In their dreams, it works, and they manage to defeat the twins. But in reality, they fell asleep despite all the pinching. Nevertheless, the twins report to Tsubaki that they worked hard, and together, while also admitting the scroll containing the secret to getting allong was blank. Ultimately, the only ket to getting along is practice, like any other skill.

In the second half, Hana-senpai is fed up with the girls constantly making fun of men. She cancels classes and announces that there will be a game of tag. She’ll be “it” an will play the role of a male, while anyone she catches will go without dinner. Every girl knows they’re no match for Hana, so the exercise seems to pay immediate dividends.

Hana is able to catch just about every girl, and when an overconfident Benisumomo comes straight at her, she reminds her of the still yawning gap of ability between them. After seeing Beni and Tsubaki fight on pretty much equal ground, Hana is on a totally different level…which makes you wonder why she fears males so much and insists the others do the same.

Whiel Asagao quickly falls victim to an all-too-easy caveman meat trap, Tsubaki has a plan for defeating Hana. It involves Sazanka using transformation jutsu to let Hana’s guard down. When Hana notices Sazanka’s imitation of her fellow teacher Konoha is not quite right, Sazanka is captured by the “real” Konoha…but that’s really Tsubaki in disguise.

Because Tsubaki’s transformation jutsu is far more convincing, Hana speaks to her as if she were speaking to the real Konoha, and lets slip that the men being scary is merely a lie they must uphold at all costs. Tsubaki is so shocked by this she transforms back into her normal form and darts away.

When Hana tries to give chase, her bad back starts barking at her, and the real real Konoha comes to help her. Hana tells her to find Tsubaki, who heard something she shouldn’t have, and is now all mixed up.

In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki – 02 – Three Dogs, Three Sheep, a Duel and Double Meat

The repetitive conjecture about otoko (i.e., males) so prevalent in the opener is entirely absent here, with one half focusing on a Dog v. Sheep combat training. Tachiaoi invited Tsubaki to join them first, but cocky Team Sheep leader Benisumomo insists on taking Team Dog on. But Sheep member Touwata, obsessed with hard work and willpower, thinks her leader Beni is relying to much on her talen

Her concern leads her to parlay with Team Dog for Tsubaki to give Beni a “good thrashing” in hopes it will convince her to start working harder. Tsubaki agrees, and in the meantime Sazanka and Asagao break the parlay by capturing Touwata, only for both of them to get caught in Sheep’s trap expert Mizubahou’s rope net (a net she’d only set up due to habit!).

You immediately get the feeling Tsubaki is only humoring the younger Touwata, and sure enough, Tsubaki is one of the only people who knows that Benisumomo’s cool lazy act is just that: an act. In reality, Beni works her ass off and always has. She just worries that if anyone else knew her secret it would harm her carefully maintained rep.

After a friendly greeting, Tsubaki and Beni get down to business. It’s clear from their sparring that these are indeed two of the most talented kunoichi in the village, and their jumps, flips, feints, kicks, and punches comprise a beautiful, deadly dance. The two flow like water until breathing flame one another, creating a big boom that draws their kohai rush to the scene. Tsubaki and Beni say they came to a draw, but Beni promises Touwata that she’ll win next time.

In the second segment, Sazanka wants more of Tsubaki’s attention but the two are in different huts for their respective classes. But Tsubaki has apparently been more distracted because of otoko of late (though you wouldn’t know it from this episode). So Tsubaki sneaks out of class through the bathroom, telling Asagao to stay put and cover for her. Before long Asagao is threatened with no dinner and instructed to catch Sazanka at all costs.

While glancing out the window in class, Tsubaki spots her kohais playing hooky and intercepts them. I love how Sazanka rushes at her big sis only to catch nothing but air as Tsubaki flips over her while tying her up in one lovely acrobatic flourish. But when asked directly why she snuck out of class, Sazanka surprises Asagao by not giving the true reason, not wanting Tsubaki to feel like this was her fault for neglecting her kohai.

Tsubaki, however, is as wise as she is strong, and knows Sazanka was lying about simply wanting to go for a walk in the nice weather. So she keeps the camellias Sazanka picked for her (symbolizing love, natch), and makes sure to give her some love later. Sazanka makes good on her promise to give Asagao all of her meat, and Tsubaki shares half of hers with Sazanka.

From the friendly but intense competition between Tsubaki and Benisumomo, to the similar dynamic between the two older girls’ eager kohais, to the sisterly affection that surrounds both Team Dog and the Akane community as a whole, this episode was a compelling slice of kunoichi life.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki – 01 (First Impressions) – The Art of Perturbability

What if Takagi-san had a kunoichi ancestor…and instead of sitting next to the boy she likes in class, the ancestor lives in an all-female village where girls are raised to fear and avoid men? Even though said men are just on the other side of the mountain…and the ancestor really wants to meet one?

That’s In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki in a nutshell. The titular Tsubaki is the best kunoichi student in her village, but she’s also growing up and starting to think about boys, even though she’s never met or even seen one. But hey, sometimes it’s the unknown that drives us.

Most if not all of the other girls harbor a similar curiosity, but mixed with a hatred and prejudice for the gender, often to the tune of repeating the same jokes about them (they’re monkeys, their crotches are weak, they stink). Two of her own kohai, Sazanka and Ahegao, even go off on their own to try to meet and then beat up the men when reports come in that they’re nearby.

Tsubaki striking out into the night to bring the two younger girls home provides much of the episode’s action, and the chase is beautifully storyboarded, directed, and animated. These wee ninja are quick as darts and twice as sharp. They can also breath fire and change their forms, you get the feeling any men out there would be at a disadvantage.

Tsubaki very nearly lets her own curiosity about men (which again, is different and less hostile than that of the other girls) lead to contact with the men, as she concedes that no harm can come from simply watching them from afar.

However, when one of those men appears behind them, Tsubaki freaks out and they escape. The tiny Sazanka wanted to fight them (she wants to fight everyone), but Tsubaki had more than enough unknown for the night, having walked right up to the edge only to retreat in the end.

Whether the near-encounter with a man was real or just Tsubaki’s dream, what becomes clear that morning is that the Akane clan’s village is a lot like Takagi-san’s school (again, if it were all women), with a colorful array of characters at different stages of adolescence.

The Takagi-san style art with larger heads can make it hard to nail down how old everyone’s supposed to be, but judging by the character designs of both elementary and middle school students in Takagi, it’s a similar mix here, with some girls making more kiddy jokes like boys are some kind of beast, while others closer to Tsubaki in age seeming to share a more complex curiosity about them.

One thing is certain: Tsubaki’s recent preoccupation with men is distracting her from her training, both in class and out in on the grounds. Asagao Sazanka soon puts two and two together and notices her big sis seems to get flustered when she hears the word man. This is unfortunate development as a lot of people say “man” a lot in this episode.

Sazanka thus issues a challenge to Tsubaki: if she can use her flame jutsu to evaporate a large puddle of water while she whispers “man” in her ear, it will prove to her that Tsubaki isn’t afraid of men. Tsubaki ends up creating enough flames to make a huge crater, thus putting Sazanka’s concerns to rest.

Nevertheless, Tsubaki wants to meet a guy. She doesn’t know why, or even what she’d say or do if she did, she just knows she wants to meet one really bad. This, despite the fact her elders and peers have all been conditioned to believe men are brutal savages.

Leaving aside a more specific desire for romance, a part of Tsubaki is telling her there is more to this world than her village, and that it may just prove beneficial to learn more about what lies beyond its borders.

My Senpai is Annoying – 12 (Fin) – All Grow’d Up

The Fall’s cutest, sweetest, most life-affirming series ends on a suitably cute, sweet, life-affirming episode all about Futaba and Takeda. With Sakurai and Nakama’s relationship status in a good place, it made sence to focus on the main couple, who have been a lot more on the fence about where they stand despite their obvious chemistry and mutual affection.

Futaba’s growth as a salesperson, which she largely attributes to her senpai’s care and guidance, results not only in her scoring a good deal, but gives Takeda the confidence to send her off on a solo presentation that she then nails. This allows him to score a company-saving deal, and he’s soon surrounded by impressed ladies who want to throw a drinking party for him.

Not really in a hurry to watch other women fawn over her senpai, Futaba still insists Takeda join them at the party while excusing herself. With everyone else off doing something, Futaba ends up going to the usual izakaya alone. She immediately realizes it’s not nearly as fun there without Takeda, which…girl I’m sure if you asked him out so it was just the two of you, he’d have agreed in a heartbeat!

As the draft beer flows, Futaba reminisces on her first day at the office when she was a green(-haired) rookie. She immediately makes it clear to Sakurai that she’s not some doll to fawn over, while Takeda buys her a can of soup but then mistakes her for a junior high student, making their introduction as senpai and kohai thoroughly awkward.

Still, Futaba marvels at how far the two of them have come. She probably loathed the man who thought she was a little kid, but now that she knows Takeda and he’s helped her so much, that’s not the case anymore. Color me 100% un-shocked that Takeda blew off his own party as soon as he could to join Futaba, and just in time to keep a drunk salaryman from pawing her.

While a pretty dense fellow, Takeda has never been one to mince words or obfuscate about his general feelings towards Futaba. And yet he’s certainly not one to realize his feelings are romantic, nor is he bold enough to come right out and say that. What he can say, and Futaba can easily accept (with no small amount of blushing) is that he knows drinking with her is a lot more fun than drinking with anyone else.

He takes this a step further on their walk to the train station, after both he and Futaba have had a little too much beer. Nevertheless, it’s the perfect amount for him to be able to say that no matter who Futaba “ends up with” (in a general sense), he promises to always be there to protect her “until then”. Mind you, I’m sure both he and Futaba would be just find if that “someone” ends up being him!

After that lovely little nightttime scene and the credits, we get one more cute scenario—the famous Umbrella Walk. Futaba forgot hers, but Takeda’s is more than wide enough to accommodate her beside him. When she gets self-conscious and moseys over to the end, he draws her closer with his beefy hand. She freaks out, and calls her senpai annoying, but in truth there’s no one she’d rather be with under an umbrella.

My Senpai is Annoying – 11 – A Very Good Year

Like the Valentines, cherry blossom viewing, and Christmas festivities, the end-of-year office party at a cozy izakaya is another way to reap vicarious enjoyment of a work culture that doesn’t really currently exist for me, as I work remotely for an out-of-state company. While I still wish the dudes would bother Sakurai less, there’s something just really nice about watching Futaba and her co-workers and boss drinking together and talking about their holiday plans.

Takeda says he’s just going to “veg out” for New Years, Futaba isn’t quite able to summon the courage to ask to hang out. That’s not a problem for Sakurai, who takes Kazama aside and invites him to her and Yuuto’s home for some homemade udon and celebration. It ends up being just the two of them for New Years Eve when Yuuto suddenly remembered he had made plans with a friend for the night.

Whether this was his mentor Natsumi teaching him how to properly isolate a couple, or simple absent-mindedness on his part, Sakurai is so flustered by Kazama’s arrival the udon burns and they have to have instant ramen for dinner. It doesn’t matter to Kazama; he came to see her and is happy he did. When the two laugh at the same joke on the TV, they look and feel like a cozy old married couple.

While Futaba wasn’t able to spend New Years Eve with Takeda (she has a quiet evening with Natsumi, and gets a call from her gramps who is on a very manly fishing trip, she and Natsumi end up encountering Takeda at the shrine, and Natsumi soon makes herself scarce so the pink kimono-wearing Futaba is alone with Takeda. Her prayers for the new year don’t include anything related to getting closer to him, but it happens anyway as they share the same fortune: The one you’re looking for is right next to you.

The fact Kazama still “doesn’t know how she feels” about him truly stretches credulity by the week! After he and Sakurai are assumed to be a couple by a live TV camera crew, and he starts blabbing about having spotted Futaba and Takeda, even going so far as to show the reporter a picture of the two sleeping together, Futaba runs back to the shrine to beat Kazama with her kinchaku.

He wakes up lying in Sakurai’s lap, and when she asks if he was looking at her chest, she’s appreciative when he honestly said that he was. Clearly it’s fine if it’s him. As for the photo a passing little girl took on her toy digital camera of her stealing a kiss while he was still asleep? That’s the very evidence Kazama needs to be sure Sakurai feels the same way about him…only Sakurai is too bashful to let him see it. Oh well…there will be other opportunities.

My Senpai is Annoying – 10 – Buns, Basketball, and Baths

The most inscrutable character in Senpai has to be the eccentric, mischievous Tsukishiro Mona. She’s such a mystery I kinda want a segment that explains her more, though like the alien in Alien (or the Cylons in Battlestar) perhaps the less known, the better. All we know is, she can get away with grabbing a dieting Sakurai without fear of HR reprimand, inadvertently shoving Sakurai chest-first into Kazama, an innocent bystander.

The next segment threw me off a bit because Takeda seemed not to recognize Tsukishiro outside of work. Turns out she loves pork buns, and accepts his challenge in an eating contest at his favorite hole-in-the-wall eatery. It also turns out she’s only ever eaten them cold, so not long after biting into one of those steaming beauties, she resigns. When the two talk about it at work, Futaba is left out and feels a little jealous, but Takeda can read her like a book and offers to take her out for more buns.

Kazama is proving quite the catch for Sakurai as it’s revealed he was once quite the basketballer, and so makes the perfect tutor for her brother Yuuto. She arranges to watch the two practice and even makes a lunch, but doesn’t count on Natsumi, Takeda, and Futaba showing up, resulting in a game of Horse that merely turns into a two-hour-long duel between the two basketball aces of the group: Kazama and Natsumi.

Making it clear that she didn’t get to spend as much time alone with Kazama as she wanted, Sakurai orders an end to the contest. Reading the room, Natsumi departs for the bathhouse with Yuuto (whom she’s taken under her wing as a protégé), Takeda, and a sleeping Futaba. That frees Sakurai and Kazama to have an adorable little private dinner of vending machine hot dogs. Honestly these two could read the phone book together and it would be lovely to behold.

In the meantime, Natsumi remarks on the fact that Futaba hasn’t really grown much since middle school (though isn’t trying to be mean about it), while Yuuto gets some seemingly valuable tips from Takeda on getting bigger (eat a lot, rest a lot), only to learn that Futaba does all the things Takeda recommended to him, and yet remains wee. But as Takeda says quite correctly, she’s fine the way she is!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Senpai is Annoying – 09 – Once More Unto the Beach

Futaba initially thought she’d be going on a trip to the beach with just Sakurai and her brother Yuuto, but Sakurai also invites Kazama (of course), Takeda, and Natsumi to make things more “fun”…which is to say, more interesting. What results is the two core couples having a blast together, with the added thrill of showing more skin.

As expected, Takeda is a mountain carved out of granite, but it’s to the show’s credit Futaba doesn’t show up in a school one-piece, but a cute polka-dot halter/skirt combo. While towing her really far from the shore, then teaching her to swim, Takeda makes it clear her outer characteristics aren’t as important to him as how hard-working and kind she is on the inside. At the same time, he says she looks cute.

After a day working up an appetite on the beach, the group heads to the inn for a sumptuous feast where Futaba fills Takeda’s oft-empty rice bowl, but shushes him when he talks about Futaba’s cooking. Clearly, he availed himself of her offer to make him Hamburger Steak. Meanwhile, fifth wheel Natsumi keeps herself entertained by watching Futaba and Takeda get along and making sure Yuuto, the only kid there, gets some attention.

That night, after fireworks, Sakurai and Natsumi try to get Futaba to admit that things are “going well” with Takeda, considering how close they are, but Futaba, embarrassed, just wants to sleep. Meanwhile their room is close enough to the guys’ that Kazama can hear them, and between that and Takeda’s snoring, doesn’t get any sleep. That morning, he and Futaba eavesdrop on Takeda and Sakurai talking about them in a way that makes their ears red.

On their last day on the beach, Kazama is too fatigued for more activities, so Sakurai stays with him under the umbrella, then suggests they head to a konbini for drinks. She also picks up an ice cream, and when it reminds Kazama of old times, she offers him a sip, which is really offering him an indirect kiss. He declines, but Sakurai, knowing Kazama well, had a second ice cream just for him.

As the sun gets low, Takeda and Futaba end up tiring themselves out to the point the latter is curled up on the arm of the former, giving their friends an opportunity to document with photos how close they truly are. Those photos probably aren’t 100% okay with the HR department, but then again they aren’t in the workplace. Besides, Sakurai and Kazama don’t mean any harm. They’re happy to see their co-workers happy.

The next morning back at work, Futaba is embarrassed to reveal how tanned she got at the beach, having previously been accustomed to being shaded by her gramps’ umbrella. When Takeda arrives just as tanned, it confirms to the whole office that these two had a lot of fun together on their summer break. That said, with both Takeda and Futaba intent on maintaining that they’re merely “senpai and kohai”, who knows if anything further will come of it than what we’ve got…which really isn’t so bad!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Senpai is Annoying – 08 – Not Just Another Day

It’s Golden Week, and this episode is all about our two couples. Kazama and Sakurai go on the date to an aquarium that Kazama was brave enough to propose. Kazama likely believes he isn’t “worthy” of Sakurai or that he’s “out of her league”, but Sakurai likes him for who he is and he shouldn’t overthink things. Instead of worrying about how he could say or do things differently to make their date better, he should just enjoy the damn date!

Futaba has her Golden Week all figured out, sourcing her plan for the week from periodicals touting the proper route to becoming “a capable woman.” Of course, this is nonsense, as we know that as someone who has lived on their own since junior high and has a good job and wonderful friends,

Futaba already is a capable woman. But when the scenario of a horror TV program is eerily similar to hers, suddenly she doesn’t want to be alone. Takeda, sensing Futaba’s anxiety in just a 27-second phone call, comes calling, and Futaba is elated.

Kazama may be extremely self-conscious throughout most of the date, but Sakurai is having a perfectly good time watching cute sea animals, and especially when they meet a dolphin named Souta (Kazama’s first name) who has the same “unfriendly stare”. There’s even a stuffed Souta that Sakurai photographs with Kazama and laughs about, but Sakurai isn’t laughing at Kazama, she’s laughing because she’s having fun with him.

Futaba and Takeda also have fun on their day off, going to an arcade then out to ramen at Takeda’s go-to spot . They mention to each other more than once that this day kinda feels like work, but that’s only because they’re together.

Between the laid-back atmosphere of the ramen joint (unlike all the other restaurants busy due to Golden Week) and Takeda winning Futaba a crane game plushie simply because he wanted to, it’s a very good thing that things feel so normal and right when they’re together, at work or not.

After leaving the aquarium, Kazama suddenly has a notion and asks Sakurai to stay put until he comes back. But again, Sakuai becomes the target of unwanted attention, this time from two strangers who really want her to try mafé, with one of them even grabbing her arm.

When Kazama returns, he rescues Sakurai by borrowing a line from a shounen manga, of course. Kazama claims Sakurai is “his”, which is not always okay in some situations, but obviously Sakurai is into it and not about to contradict him. Also, it goes both ways, with Kazama being every bit hers as she is his.

Once again Kazama is embarrassed about his words and actions, but has no reason to be; for the only person who matters—Sakurai—he was very cool, and once again proved himself as someone who has her back. As they walk to the train, she uses his first name Souta to thank him. Of course, the item Kazama went back for was a Souta the dolphin plushie, so she could’ve been thanking him…but c’maaahn. She was totally thanking Kazama the guy!

As it has with previous episodes, Senpai continues to excel at portraying warm, cozy instances of two couples enjoying each others company. Kazama and Sakurai seem well on their way to dating, and even if Futaba and Futaba aren’t, they’re definitely much more than just co-workers.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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