Koi to Uso – 08

Ririna continues to keep her distance as the class play (Gender-swapped Romeo & Juliet) comes together in Yukari’s class. Misaki is impressing in her practices, while Nisaka is being fawned over by the girls he doesn’t like as usual, but when the costume designs are unveiled, he peaces out.

If he doesn’t want to do it, why should he? Yukari’s attempts to persuade him otherwise are failing…when Nisaka’s Dad suddenly shows up.

Nisaka’s Dad makes it clear Nisaka was always a hugely popular, magnetic kid with tons of friends, but while Yukari says he’s still popular, things have changed. Now friends are at a premium, and his Dad urges him to treasure the few who stand by him, which is kind of a dick Dad move. Whether his Dad picks up that his son likes Yukari, I have no idea, but he does like that someone like Yukari is friends with him.

When Nisaka shits on R&J as a story about two selfish fools, Yukari likens it more to their situation as notice-havers. He believes even if they’re never with the ones they love or no one accepts it, it’s “not meaningless”, which, while true in a sense, is far too on the nose with Nisaka’s feelings for Yukari to not feel a bit forced.

The only bit of Ririna we see is as she slips a postcard into the mailbox, and Yukari notes its historical theme is a little off the mark, as he really only likes burial mounds. It’s a sign they can only learn so much from each other through exchanged letters. But he sent her tickets to the play, so hopefully she’ll show.

While it’s nice to get some Yukari and Nisaka quality time in, it didn’t really move the needle forward on their plotline, unless you count Yukari meeting Nisaka’s father as progress. The fact that Yukari’s feelings are not romantic and Nisaka’s are, and Yukari has no idea of the difference, continues to hold it back. It feels static.

We witness something similar when Misaki and Yukari find themselves alone at school again. They don’t make out this time, but Misaki reports that despite her ban and the realization she wasn’t chosen, her love for Yukari has only grown and intensified. When Yukari asks her what love is, she does what anyone would do: define it in terms of how she’s felt it, all the years she’s known Yukari.

The fact that she wasn’t chosen to be his wife by the Ministry cruelly has zero effect on that love, meaning it’s now a source of short-term happiness and long-term pain. She’s also worried Yukari is starting to fall for Ririna (if he hasn’t already), and, well, he kinda is.

So again, nothing new here: Yukari still doesn’t quite know what to do. I’m not saying it’s up to him to immediately choose someone and move on, but that kind of decision is not too far off the horizon.

Koi to Uso – 07

Neither Yukari nor Ririna are remotely ready for…whatever it is Yukari thinks they have to do to not get penalized, so it’s a huge relief to see that they don’t make love here and now.

Romantic feelings have only just started to well up in Ririna’s heart and challenge her head, and it’s never occurred to her until now that her head could lose. She’s afraid of the person she becomes when Yukari gets so close to her, because it’s a person she simply doesn’t know.

As for Yukari, he’s so scared that they’re being watched to make sure they do it, he gets it in his head to try to “pretend” in order to fool them. That’s all you really need to know to determine that his head is already fighting a losing battle…and it wasn’t that great a head to begin with.

Saying the word “pretend” anywhere near an already vulnerable and confused Ririna is just a terrible move, but at least Yukari apologizes, and when she says she just needs some space and time, he gives it to her. You’d think the classic “cultural festival play” scenario would take his mind off of things, but…wait, what am I saying? SHIT no it wouldn’t! Yukari’s a dreary mess.

At least, I thought to myself, Yukari wasn’t chosen to play Juliet. When Yukari drops the figure Ririna gave him and takes a hammer strike to the hand to protect it, he ends up in the infirmary, where a worried-sick Misaki enters, but takes a few moments to collect herself before talking.

She and Yukari haven’t talked in almost a month, because she’s instituted a “Neji ban” on herself, lest fall even more in love with the guy. I would say the ship has sailed on that.

When Yukari is vague even when pressed—saying ‘some things happened and I hurt Ririna’s feelings’, Misaki uses her strong diplomatic ties with Ririna to try to learn more from her. In the process she remembers a story from middle school when Yukari made the best hotcakes, and Ririna learns he can cook.

Still, Ririna says she doesn’t want to see him, but feels terribly lonely without him. Wellsir, whatcha got there is a bad case of being in love. Misaki’s spirits plummet when she hears this, because now she and Ririna are both trapped in a spiral of longing and guilt, trying in vain to organize or balance their feelings with the other person’s.

It turns out Yajima, the ministry officer who messed with Yukari last week was in virtually the same position Yukari now finds himself in. The girl in question who he loved is his Ministry colleague Ichijou (the redhead), who don’t you know it, offered to reject her official match if he, the man she really loved, married her instead.

But he BLEW IT, and now he works beside that person every day, hiding the feelings that have never fully dispersed, and taking it out on poor innocent, dimwitted burial mound enthusiasts. Joking aside, Yajima doesn’t think their situations are truly identical, because in Yukari’s case, even as he harbors feelings for Misaki, he’s developing feelings for Ririna as well.

Yajima recommends Yukari not think too much, since teenagers aren’t good at that anyway. Instead, he should act, and he does, by writing Ririna a long text from the heart telling her how he felt about her taking an interest in his interests, and hoping they can go see burial mounds someday.

Ririna doesn’t respond by text that day, to Yukari’s further dejection, but in the morning post a beautifully hand-written letter from Ririna arrives, which is even more honest and moving than Yukari’s text. It even moves him to tears…in front of his mom! In any case, while trying to fix things and getting discouraged, Ririna wrote exactly what was needed to cheer her future husband up.

It certainly feels like they’ll be even more on the mend next week, but now that Misaki is certain that Ririna also loves Yukari, she finds herself stuck between supporting her friends and wishing them the best, and the selfish girl wanting the giant toy in the window.

Misaki believes she has the power to influence (i.e. advance) their relationship with just three words to Ririna—you’re in love—but wasn’t able to when they met up, and probably will continue to have a great deal of difficulty ever doing so, and with good reason: she’s not a masochist!

Koi to Uso – 06

Whoa, hold on, what are Yukari and Ririna doing, making out in bed? Oh, it’s just Ririna’s first sexy dream about Yukari. Little did she—or I—know that by episode’s end that dream would become shockingly close to reality.

This is due to a combination of factors, including a genuine growing affection for one another as they get to know each other better, the scientific process by which they were chosen to marry one another, and oh yeah, a ruthless alternate-universe Japanese government that is NOT FUCKING AROUND when it comes to population growth.

Yes, this episode checks in momentarily with Misaki and Nisaka, and new characters are introduced in Ririna’s new friend Arisa and Yukari’s middle-school classmate Igarashi, but thankfully the focus is on the two people that aggressive government program determined should get hitched, get it on, and have at least 2 children.

To that end, everyone who recently got their notices are instructed to leave school early and report to…a hotel…uh-oh. The strangeness of the situation is definitely felt by our surrogates, Yukari and Ririna. He sees aa classmate with his “pre-Yukari way-out-of-his-league” future wife, and turns inward to wonder if people look at him and Ririna like he’s looking at them.

Then that very thing happens. Ririna arrives sporting a new hairstyle and the gift of a creepy figuring that Yukari loses his shit over. He has a gift for her two, and his classmate and future wife marvel at how well this system seems to pick people who clearly like each other.

Both Yukari and Ririna bristle at that, but as the afternoon progresses, The State systematically runs roughshod over whatever doubts and reservations the two may have. Indeed, Ririna, having only recently researched French kissing, is particularly uncomfortable with all the sex talk going on by the Ministry’s presenter, a True Believer in the Yukari System if ever there was one.

Condoms are passed out. The now-healthy birthrate is mentioned to tout the success of the system. Sex is healthily discussed in terms of its physiological and mental benefits, in addition to just feeling good. It’s gotta be a lot to take in for a bunch of 16-year-olds, and that is no accident on the part of the Ministry.

After concluding the lecture with a very informative porno that leaves Ririna shaking and Yukari desperate to keep Misaki out of his head, all of the husband-wife pairs are assigned hotel rooms and ordered to spend the night together. A random Ministry guy hinting (in jest) that they’ll be “watched” and an overheard rumor about consequences for “not banging” only hikes up the pressure.

Before they know it, Yukari and Ririna are alone in a tastefully lit, comfortable room, staring down a big bed. There are no chairs, as Ririna helpfully points out. Yukari is LOSING IT. He’s stuck in his head, and at least finally realizes it, but when he tries to think of what he can do for Ririna, what he comes up with mirrors the beginning of her dream in which they make out: he pins her to the bed. As she awaits the next move, the episode mercilessly (or mercifully) fades to black…

The Yukari Law was born out of necessity. Japan’s birthrate hovered around 1.46 births per woman in 2015. That’s just not good enough to make up for the people aging and dying. There’s no telling what the economic, social, and cultural consequences will be, but you can bet they’ll be bad. Robots aren’t the answer. People study and work too much to get by or get ahead. Family often takes a backseat to success. A lot of younger people just don’t want it.

These are the harsh realities that face the Japan here, in our world. And while it’s doubtful anything as comprehensively invasive as Yukari will ever be implemented, Koi to Uso still serves as a kind of thought experiment in which a relatively simple fix is applied: get people to make more babies. Simple in concept, but ridiculously complex and problem-fraught in execution.

Its exploration of that what-if scenario, with a focus on four youths going against the grain, is as unsettling as it is riveting.

Shimoneta – 02

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To borrow a couple of sophomoric double entendres from Blue Snow, Okuma is in a tight spot; between a rock and a hard place. He admires and idolizes the pure, perfect Anna (who shows no signs of being anything other than that, with no hidden dark side), but is being forced through blackmail and coersion by Ayame to undermine her.

I will say, both Ayame and Okuma are well-positioned in terms of hiding in plain sight, and Okuma’s story of how he was ostracized when his “terrorist” father was put away and met the “guardian angel” Anna in grade school (something she doesn’t remember) that inspired him to live a purer life, is a great cover story.

But Ayame is stripping the primacy of his goal away as she exposes him to more and more misbehavior, as Okuma can’t deny the thrill he gets from finding ultra-rare smutty mags in an abandoned cabin, like buried treasure. When the imagery therein is copied and distributed around school, Anna is so ignorant to its insidiousness she herself frames a picture of a girl performing fellatio in the StuCo office!

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That gets to another bigger social issue about the whole anti-dirty-joke law and PM devices: real-world Japan’s brith rate can’t keep up with its aging population; if laws were put into place to block the people’s natural sexual development and keep them in the dark about reproduction (if such a thing were even possible), it would be a de facto form of population control. Maybe the Japan of Shimoneta wants the population to decrease.

In any case, Anna’s powerful, driven politician mother is introducing a new bill that would step up the oppression even further, legalizing the monitoring of every action and conversation in the country. With no stones unturned, Ayame’s terrorism could not continue, her crusade to educate the ignorant masses would end in defeat, and most importantly, the people would have no privacy whatsoever in the new surveillance state. Ayame makes sure to impress upon Okuma that while she has her own selfish reasons for doing what she does, she’s also working in best interests of a free society.

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Thus, the fight must not only continue, but be stepped up. Ayame dresses Okuma up like a Blue Snow decoy to give students dirty word eye exams during school physicals while she steals the boys’ urine samples, hoping to start a scandal in the school when tests reveal high levels of masturbation. The operation also results in Anna yelling out the howler above.

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Anna isn’t portrayed as an idol fool here, but actually comes quite close to exposing and capturing Okuma-in-drag more than once, and presses her pursuit of him with heretofore unseen (and somewhat frightening) superhuman strength and speed. Game Over for Okuma and Ayame is rarely less than a few seconds or inches (heh-heh) away, but with one last misdirection, Ayame manages to save Okuma and make off with the urine.

The fact that the entire final exchange is witnessed by a painter in a crow’s nest—likely the same painter who painted the pure “Sound of Music”-style painting Okuma lingered on—means the ranks of Ayame’s SOX are likely to swell in the near future, which bodes well for defeating Anna and stopping her mom’s overreaching legislation.

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Shimoneta – 01 (First Impressions)

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Rundown: In a titular “boring world where the concept of dirty jokes doesn’t exist”, because they are forbidden by moral law, Okuma Tanukichi manages to transfer from one of the least moral to the most moral high school in the country, to be closer to his crush, StuCo President Nishikinomiya Anna.

His dreams of a pure high school life are dashed when he’s approached by the Vice President, Kajou Ayame, whose alter-ego “Blue Snow” (or “Blue in the Snow Field”) is a “decency terrorist”, who uses his feelings for Anna and her own high standing in the school to blackmail him into helping to found the “Anti-Societal Organization” or SOX with her.

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Analysis: Shimoneta[…] may have a ridiculously long title and a concept as high as a kite, but it quickly commits to and fully owns its silliness. Aside from a few choice pieces of sexy dialogue uttered by Blue Snow, most of the “dirty jokes” she whips up aren’t just tame, but awkwardly and often arbitrarily used, which makes perfect sense in the context of the show. Kajou Ayame may be a serial distributor of blue material, but she’s new to it too, and wields it with wild abandon and gusto.

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Okuma may actually be more well-versed than Ayame, due to his time spent at a school of lower moral fiber, which, in addition to his dirty joke terrorist father, makes him a natural target for Ayame’s gaze. And if you strip away the blue sheen, this show has some pretty dark and interesting undertones about an invasive, oppressive police state that leaves its youth so cripplingly ignorant to the act of reproduction, that a few moments of Ayame’s antics are able to “finish off” the vast majority of them at a school assembly.

The metaphor is tired, but apt: Ayame aims to break the dam and restore this boring world to a state of natural sexual freedom, and whether he likes it or not, Okuma and her are uniquely positioned to make meaningful change, and have a lot of fun in the process.

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Shimoneta’s dialogue—at once stuffed with bleeped bad words and hilarious euphemisms (and a whole lot of incorrect information about how babies are made)—crackles and pops as the wild Kajou darts across the screen, a human spectacle with a mask made from pantsu and a towel that threatens to fall off and reveal all.

President Anna and Treasurer Raiki serve as agents of the system and defenders of the oppressive and ultimately unnatural order, but interesting, neither seem like they’re hypocrites, making their battle against the front-line revolutionaries Ayame and Okuma more interesting than simply good-vs.-evil (that, and the fact Okuma deeply admires Anna).

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This is a battle between ignorance and knowledge, and Ayame is the Eve who has tasted of the fruit and works towards the creation of an exciting world where the concept of dirty jokes, among other things, does exist. Which sounds like the ingredients for a boisterous, refreshing comedy…but comedy tempered by the knowledge that hundreds of millions of people in the real world live under regimes that stifle free expression as “violations of the established order.”

I’m not sure the show will get that serious (the jaunty dance number at the end would seem to indicate not very), but the undertones are there, and they lend righteousness to Blue Snow’s crusade that rises this show above farce and dirty jokes for dirty jokes’ sake.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 15

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As Tusk and Ange (who were allowed to dress) get carted off with Vivian to somewhere they know not where, this week begins by acknowledging that yes, it was cruel for the dragon girls to interrupt them in flagrante delicto. The episode certainly makes it up to him later (er…sorta?), but Ange’s “There’s no time for that now!”, while both practical and funny, is utterly unsympathetic to male biology.

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Still, there really isn’t time for sexytime. After taking it easy and exploring this strange new world on their own, they now find themselves in the clutches and at the mercy of the dragon girls, who I must say have one exquisitely picturesque capital.

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Fish-out-of-water culture shock ensures, as Ange and Tusk are brought before a council of priestesses who all shout questions at her. Our fiery Ange is having none of it and refuses to cooperate, which is great. Why the hell should she? Because they have swords pointed at her and are threatening execution? Pfft. Been there, done that. “Bring it on, if you can.”

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The dragon girl Ange once fought, a princess in her own right named Salamandinay (which I’ll henceforth shorten to Sala) emerges from behind a curtain. Amused by Ange’s brash impudence, Sala steps in to take responsibility for Ange and Tusk’s lives. She’s immensely proper and polite, showing the two to comfy quarters and offering tea, but when her subordinates deign to make her repeat her orders to leave, you see a tinge of her own hellfire lurking beneath that serene visage.

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With no reason to trust Sala, Ange repays her kindness by breaking what was probably an antique tea bowl and using a shard to initiate a standoff. You have to hand it to Ange, she knows how to handle herself, and has had it with waves of pleasantries obscuring the truth she seeks, whatever the hell it is. She’s also willing to test if Tusk is truly ready to die for her at the drop of a hat.

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Sala defuses the situation and bids that Ange accompany her to the bowels of the ruined Dawn Tower (called Aura Tower here), where Sala proceeds to lay the truth on her: There are two worlds, this one being where humans originally came from. After war, some left to create Ange’s world, while others stayed and fundamentally changed their genetic makeup in order to repair the planet’s damage, and their own.

The most damning truth is the fact that the first dragon, Aura, who is essentially mankind’s savior in this world, is no longer there, but being imprisoned on Ange’s world beneath its Dawn Tower, and is the source of the Light of Mana (thanks to Embryo). The Light isn’t infinite, so the powers that be replenish it by slaughtering the DRAGONS who stray into their world.

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Ange finds all of this fascinating, but it doesn’t change the fact that the world she’s from and the battles she’s faught aren’t “false” to her, and she has to go back. Sala won’t let her, and demonstrates the gap in power between them by choking Ange out. Sleep, fair, spastic princess.

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Ange awakes nude in last week’s hotel room as Tusk brings her coffee, and they have a perfectly casual talk about her dream, and then Tusk morphs into an evil Sala and Ange wakes up again, to find Vivian is back in her human form. The double dream is a nice indication that Ange has just ingested a large about of stuff, and she’s still trying to make sense of what’s real. She also probably wouldn’t have minded if the dragon girls had given her and Tusk just five minutes…

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The rank-and-file dragon girls were not idle as Ange slept: Tusk is the first mature male in human form any of them have ever seen (all the males here are big dragons) which is a pretty big deal. As such, he is stripped down and used as a live, unwilling subject for a sex education lesson, which consists mostly of a bevy of scantily-clad dragon girls poking and prodding him every which way.

Ange bursts in, suddenly Tusk’s knight in shining armor, only to trip on a bottle. In doing so, she learns just how easily one’s face can happen to land right smack-dab in someone’s crotch, and just like that, we’re tuned into to Cross Ange: Fellatio of Angels and Dragons.

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Obviously it’s not shown, but it’s implied that Tusk’s erection goes straight into Ange’s mouth, after which she swallows, dusts herself off like nothing’s amiss, and then asks what the meaning of all of this is. She blames and fumes at Tusk for this predicament, even though she was out cold, he was all alone, vastly outnumbered, and tied down; and all of this with blue balls. So I ask you: what the heck was Tusk supposed to do?

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Knowing the meter is running, the episode promptly tables the smut, and after Ange has calmed down, Vivian is reunited with her dragon mother. Vivi isn’t interested at first, but her nose knows: this is someone she used to know. This underlines the fact that the war between the two worlds isn’t as simple as Us vs. Them; there are children of both sides, and innocents on both sides that must be protected.

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That night, Sala spearheads a pretty lantern-launching shindig to celebrate Vivi’s return, Sala’s subordinates relay her wish that Ange and Tusk enjoy their stay and consider joining her crusade of acceptance, forgiveness, and restoration…and Ange finds it in her heat to forgive Tusk for letting himself get captured and sexually assaulted.

A lot happened this week: some of it intriguing, some of it downright silly; but Ange is still faced with the same basic situation she was in last week: she finds herself in a new, less messed-up world where she could live and forget about the messed up world she came from happily ever after, with Tusk (assuming she can keep the other girls off of him).

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The difference is, now she knows all the details with which to inform her ultimate choice, which Tusk will surely go along with whatever it is, because he’s her knight. Does she stay here? Does she go home and resume the fight against Vivi’s people (not easily done, considering how tough Sala is)?

She can’t really deny her world is a world of theft, greed, destruction and despair. On the other hand, it’s her world. If there’s a way to eliminate those things, as they’ve seemingly been eliminated in the dragon world, she’s going to want to be on point in that effort, because she’s no longer an the idle Princess Angelise with her head in the sand. She’s Ange.

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Stray Observations:

  • Sala is voiced by the ethereal Hocchan (Horie Yui).
  • Sala heard about Ange from Riza Randog, who we know is a dragon lady. That means the dragons have had one of their own in the emperor’s bed for some time. I imagine she was going to betray him eventually.
  • I was able to shorten Salamandinay to Sala because Salia wasn’t in this episode, but it makes me wonder if their names sound similar and they look similar for a reason, as Sala is the chosen magical girl heroine Salia has always fantasized about becoming.
  • No matter how much sympathy for their cause Sala manages to build, there’s a part of me that thinks we still don’t know the complete picture. These dragons may yet be the bad guys. This is Cross Ange we’re talking about.
  • The mind races to fathom which sexual acts will accidentally befall AngexTusk in the weeks to come. Will the show ever let them just have regular, okay sex?