Bocchi the Rock! – 12 (Fin) – Ultra Super Bocchi-chan

It’s time to play, and BtR get’s right down to it. But while I was relieved Bocchi was on the stage, but there were still things to dread. Would her dad’s old guitar break, or Kita’s voice fail, at the worst possible time? Turns out, it’s the former.

Their first song goes off without a hitch, but early in the second, a string gives out just before Bocchi’s big solo. Before it happens, everyone (especially Kikuri, who breakes out of her drunken stupor) can tell something’s off, even though Bocchi’s playing is okay.

After it happens, Bocchi is ready to spiral into a full-on meltdown, but Kita has her back, ad-libbing a  sort of rhythm solo for just enough measures to allow Bocchi to pick up one of Kikuri’s empty glass sake bottles and pull off a pretty rad bottleneck slide guitar solo.

Bocchi may be mortified, but both the adults and the kids love it. The former are super amused Bocchi thought to go bottleneck, while a lot of the latter didn’t even know what she was doing, but thought it was freaking awesome.

With their set complete, the band takes a bow, and when some in the crowd call out bottleneck Bocchi, Kita shoves the mic in her face. Bocchi locks up, unable to speak without prepared remarks, then asks herself What Would Kikuri Do? … and leaps into the crowd.

While she almost certainly would have been caught at a club where it would have been more expected, here she hits the ground with a punishing thud. Kikuri, Seika, and Ryou think it’s hilarious and Bocchi is now a rock legend while Nijika and Kita are more concerned.

When Bocchi comes to in the nurses office, Kita is by her side. Bocchi takes the time to thank Kita and to tell her how good she’s gotten in such a short time. Kita’s response is a little somber, since she’s resigned to never being good enough to be a frontman like Bocchi, Kit-aura or no. But Bocchi will happily keep teaching her.

It’s here where Kita officially starts calling Bocchi Hitori-chan, which is incredibly sweet. Bocchi delays the after-party to a date TBD, and back home apologizes to her dad for “breaking” his guitar. He tells her no such apology is necessary, but since his guitar is so old it may be time for her to buy her own. When she says all her STARRY pay goes to quotas, her dad produces a fan of 10,000 yen bills.

At first I thought he and her mom had been saving her weekly allowance for a social life she never had until now, but these are Bocchi’s legitimate hard-won advertising earnings from the clicks her videos receive. That’s right; she’s been posting to the Gotou family account, and they all know she’s guitarhero!

Suddenly having 300,000 yen burning a hole in her pocket, Bocchi gets all psyched up about quitting her job, since the cash will cover not only a guitar but her quotas. But when it comes time to actually bring it up to Seika, Bocchi folds like a cheap suit and issues a declaration of commitment to her current job.

She also considers that Seika might let her quit if she buys her a guitar, but when Nijika asks Seika what she’d want Bocchi to get her she says nothing (while privately blushing over how nice Bocchi is). With that, Kessoku Band is off to Ochanomizu, a historically musically-oriented district, to shop for a new guitar.

Once there, Ryou is annoyed when Kita and Nijika focus on the cute accessories, then unassumingly asks if she can try out a certain bass and proceeds to slap the shit out of it, impressing the store manager (and Kita).

When Bocchi spots a sleek black Yamaha, the manager approaches her and she goes to pieces, but Kita is there to operate Ventriloquist Dummy Bocchi, Oddly, even though the point of going to a physical store was to handle a guitar before buying it, Bocchi buys it without handling it. She even flees the store without the guitar, but her friends bring it out to her.

With that, Bocchi straps into her new guitar which she bought with her own hard-earned cash, and she does indeed look awesome, though her family witnesses her promising her dad’s old guitar that she won’t neglect it. Leaving her heavily bookmarked practice books and closet studio, Bocchi puts her new guitar on her back and heads out, saying Be back later not just to her family, but to us, as that’s the end of Bocchi the Rock!

While this was a pitch-perfect ending to the season, I for one hope we get an encore soon, featuring more confidence, more comedy, and more concerts! Until then, Bocchi the Rock! is a late but deserving addition to the conversation for Anime of the Year.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 21 – Phoenix Rising

This energetic episode of Couple of Cuckoos got a lot of previously stationary balls rolling just in time for the season’s final push and really brought the ensemble humming together for the first time. And it all comes down to scenes of directness and honesty. The first term ends with Nagi back in the #1 spot, which considering his fall to 13th (and all his life’s distractions since) is a truly impressive feat.

He not wrongly believes this feat to trigger a reassessment in Segawa Hiro’s “placing him on hold”, and sure enough, he gets that love note in his locker with her atrocious handwriting inviting him to the roof. After she uses the same “phoenix” analogy in his own head, he once again asks if she’ll go out with him. And while she once again doesn’t say no, her “yes” is filtered through a confession: she wishes she was engaged to him.

The runner’s high from exams turns into an even more potent lover’s high for Nagi, as he takes great pains to let Erika and Sachi know that Hiro confessed. While Sachi doesn’t see it as a real confession, Erika is at least well-versed enough in the language of love to know that Hiro would never just say that outright. She proposes the four of them go to her (private!) beach house to further investigate the intent of her words.

Hiro’s all in, but Sachi is out on supply shopping, so it’s Erika and Nagi this time. We missed this dynamic when Shion was the fifth wheel, but it’s another reminder of the infectious chemistry these two have, even if neither of them are comfortable seeing it as romantic affection. They’re just good buds who’ve greatly enjoyed spending time together…even on a cramped bus.

However, there is one big elephant in the room, and it’s that Hiro still doesn’t know they live together. Nagi doesn’t like the idea of keeping secrets from Hiro, but Erika thinks it could destroy their relationship with her…and also selfishly wants to have some secrets with Nagi, adding further texture to their complicated but compelling bond.

So both are saved a lot of trouble when they arrive home dressed in matching Hawaiian vacation wear to find Hiro tutoring Sachi. Also, Sachi told Hiro that Erika and Nagi (and Sachi) are living together. Hiro plays this cool in the moment, but you can tell there’s drama brewing beneath that easy smile.

Sure enough, when the four go on the trip (this time with no fifth wheel needed) there’s plenty of stuff to sift through. We naturally get to see the three girls in their swimsuits. You’d think Erika would buy Sachi a new one for the trip, but she has her school swimsuit, further increasing her kid sisterliness factor.

Erika continues to play her role as girl-pal to a T when she offers to talk to Hiro, who is clearly avoiding Nagi, on his behalf. Nagi thanks her, but knows this is something he has to talk with her about face-to-face.

The luxurious deck of Erika’s umpteenth vacation house serves as a dramatic substitute for their usual venue of real talk, the school roof. Hiro is intentionally coy, and then lays out all the ways Nagi fucked up. It’s not just that he kept a secret when they agreed not to. It’s all the opportunities he had both to tell her and to stop living there that he didn’t take.

It’s not that Nagi living with Erika is unacceptable to Hiro; it’s that he wasn’t honest about why. Hiro realizes this when the excuses about complicated family matters falls flat even as he says them. The truth is, he enjoys living there, which is why he’s stayed. And that’s fine! He just needed to tell Hiro rather than her having to infer it and Sachi confirming.

Of course, as we know, Hiro is immensely kind and magnanimous, so she forgives Nagi with a slap on the wrist…or rather, a pluck of his hair, playfully warning him she’ll use it put a curse on him should he do it again.

So finally, with what, two episodes left, everything (except the truth about Sosuke) is on the table, even Nagi being told by Hiro that Sachi has a crush on him. Again, this might not be something Sachi said to her, as she’s still figuring out her feelings, but like Nagi and Erika’s secret, it’s something Hiro inferred from Sachi’s words and actions. Let us not forget, Hiro is a smart one…but for Nagi, she’d be #1 in their grade!

Because Sachi isn’t ready for Nagi to say things like that about her, she devolves into kid-sister mode, putting him in an elaborate wrestling move. But I still feel that with all the real talk, revealing of secrets, and forgiveness in this episode, I feel like all the characters are finally ready for the cards of fate to start falling as they may.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 20 – Nagi Be Shopping

If you want a perfect encapsulation of Nagi’s plight, look no further than when he comes home after a fruitless talk with his biological father, and Erika insists he snap pictures of her in a bikini…but scolds him for starting at her. Even though she told him to take photos of her in her bikini. Sachi joins in calling him a “pervert.” This guy can’t win!

Erika also basically tells him “I told you so” regarding how her dad was never going to be forthcoming with him. He’s still not even 100% sure Sosuke is a real person. This weighs on him, and Hiro can tell, so she invites him on a second date, which consists of a competitive bike ride. It’s a cute, fun outing, but IMO further shunts Hiro into the Friendzone as someone who will be there to help him unwind when he’s troubled.

Sachi ends up having a fancy sushi dinner with Mr. Amano, and learns that he’d be totally fine if she and Nagi got married. That makes things weird when Sachi comes home and Nagi is his usual big brother self. I guess he forgot that treating her like his little sister pisses her off? At any rate, the two go shopping for the first time in forever and make dinner together.

Then Sachi drops the question of whether he’d marry her if she asked. He blushes and asks her what their parents (the Uminos) would think about that, and ultimately Sachi gets the reaction she wanted, which was not outright refusal. I dunno…this episode had some pleasant moments, but it feels like we’re in a holding pattern with no real forward momentum in any direction.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 08 – Ain’t Nuthin’ but a G-Cup

Higashira Isana may have been rejected by Mizuto, but that doesn’t stop her from teasing and flirting with him. She also wants to see his book collection, ostensibly to see which light novel sparked his sexual awakening. Yume and Akatsuki take her shopping to give her a makeover from her cozy, “lame” style, but because of her killer bod everything she tries on is a bit too alluring.

Akatsuki suggests Irina adopt Yume’s more lose and flowy style to soften her silhouette. This leads Yume to try something new, and to suspect that this was Akatsuki’s intent all along. Yume also recalls that her present style was dictated by what she thought Mizuto liked when they were dating.

When Isana shows up in Yume’s old style, Yume serves as a “chaperone”, and witnesses first hand Isana and Mizuto’s usual rapport. Mizuto insists he only treats her like any guy friend, but to Yume it looks like he never actually rejected Isana and they’ve been dating all along. Isana even reveals the reason/excuse for Mizuto putting on her socks: reaching down with her bust is a pain.

When Yume shows her to the restroom, she learns Isana still very much likes Mizuto, both as a friend and as a boy, and probably always will, despite the rejection. Isana also voices her anxiety about Mizuto making other friends who might usurp her special place in his heart.

The parallel to Yume here is all too clear. Here is a girl who, like her, became close to Mizuto through books, and soon became the most important person in her life. Mizuto also notices these parallels as he sees Isana home. He remembers having as much fund with Yume back in middle school just quietly reading together as he and Isana here.

That leads him to wonder what might’ve happened if he and Yume had never become a couple, but simply close friends like him and Isana. He concludes that it’s pointless to hypothesize, since neither of them are quite like Isana.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 17 – Camp Confession

When Nagi and Erika inform Sachi that she’s invited to their study training camp, she’s super stoked and can’t wait to start preparing for it. But when the group arrives at Erika’s opulent lakeside vacation home in Karuizawa, Sachi isn’t there; she’s ruled out by a sudden fever. In her place is Asuma Shion, AKA Matuoka Yoshitsugu’s Energetic High School Chum #1,478. 

When I first learned of this, and how he weaseled his way into tagging along (why wouldn’t they have been able to go with no one replacing Sachi?) I let out a loud, drawn-out sigh. But Shion rather than Sachi being on this trip was actually a blessing in disguise. Instead of three girls vying for Nagi’s attention, Shion is vying for Erika’s while Nagi is stoked about being there with Hiro.

Nagi provisionally agrees to cooperate with Shion such that he lets him  be Erika’s buddy for grocery shopping. At first Hiro thinks they should study while the other two are out, but the lake and crisp air of the countryside call to her. She parks herself out at the pier and does a magazine-worthy pose, telling Nagi straight-up she came because she knew he’d be there.

At the supermarket it becomes abundantly clear Erika has no idea what to buy, so she just buys whatever. Nevertheless, Shion praises her for having it together, and when she drops something, he swoops in to catch it, and his fingers meet hers. After flirting with Nagi, Hiro heads to the bath.

When Erika and Shion return home, the groceries they bought are nowhere in sight, but Shion claims to have confessed to Erika. When he actually tells Nagi that all he did was thank her for letting him come on the trip, Nagi tells him that’s not a confession. Then he tells Shion that he did confess to Hiro, and about the academic prerequisites for dating her.

Shion is impressed, calling Nagi “next-level” (the kid throws around a lot of pseudo(?) Gen-Z slang). When Erika rushes to the bath to talk to Hiro, it’s not about Shion at all (which is pretty funny) but the fact she forgot to pack underwear…or even a change of clothes. Honestly, between that and not bringing any food, you’d think Nagi would have noticed how light they were packing and prepared accordingly. Perhaps he wanted to give Erika the chance to do those things, since she’s trying to be more independent.

In any case, there’s no further mention of whatever food she and Shion bought, and we go straight to a nighttime test of courage. Hiro and Nagi are all set to be paired up again while Shion wants to go with Erika, but Erika suddenly declares she wants to be with Nagi, grabs him by the arm, and whisks him into the night, saying she needs to tell him “something”—probably about the family photo she hid when they first stepped into the house (likely the one that shows Erika and Nagi together as little tykes).

That leaves Hiro and Shion together, and it’s wonderfully awkward. Shion tries to help his buddy Nagi out by suggesting that Hiro doesn’t have to take the top spot in class every time, but Hiro immediately shuts him down, and changes the subject to Shion, whom she knows is trying to confess to Erika…and is willing to help him out.

Lycoris Recoil – 04 – Lycra Regird

After having Takina practice shooting non-lethal rounds in the café’s  basement range (what a concept) Chisato, frustrated by being beaten in a VR battle game by a player called “Fuki” (who is actually Fuki), plops the headgear on Takina and lets her rip.

Takina defeates Fuki, but while doing a flip dodging virtual fire, Chisato discovers that Takina always wears tactical boxer shorts under her skirt, the result of Mika messing with her when it comes to “regulation clothing”. With no mission this week, this calls for a shopping trip.

While underwear shopping sounds like a thin premise for an episode, what this really is is an opportunity for Chisato and Takina’s galmance to continue blossoming as they hang out in less lethal or official circumstances. Takina treats the trip like another mission, even bringing her gun, but Chisato makes her promise not to take it out.

They’re not Lycoris today, just two friends hanging out, buying cute clothes, and eating beautiful delicious fancy junk food. While Chisato is helping out some tourists with the menu with her perfect French, Takina looks up at the blue sky, the wind blows her hair about, and she seems to get what Chisato was on about, and she smiles.

Their next trip on their girldate is to the aquarium, where Chisato naturally has an annual pass and mimics the movements of the various marine life. Takina also gets Chisato to open up a bit more about why she left the DA, where she probably could have gotten away with her non-lethal methods.

That’s when Chisato reveals her owl pendant signifying (whether she knows it or not) that she’s an “Alan Child”, part of the Alan Institute that either finds or produces “geniuses” such as her in all forms. Chisato says she left DA to find “someone” who also bears the pendant, who Mika knows to be Shinji, the older blonde dude always stopping by the café.

Seeing Chisato looking wistful and even a little down compels Takina to embrace her silly side, running over to the tank and mimicking a fish, inviting Chisato (and little kids watching) to join in. This cheers Chisato right up, because she knows Takina smiling and acting silly, like geniuses, are truly gifts from God.

It’s a good thing the girls aren’t Lycoris this week, because I doubt even Chisato could have dodged what happens at the Kita-Oshiage metro station. A green-haired ne’er do-well and his band of terrorists disguised as workmen whip out all manner of heavy weaponry and open fire at the next approaching train.

When they stop firing, they realize the train is empty, but for a large task force of Lycoris, who return fire and kill everyone. Green-hair is only wounded, and detonates a series of bombs he set, blasting the station, train, and Lycoris aboard it to smithereens.

When Chisato and Takina walk past the taped-off station, Takina wants to check things out, but Chisato grabs her hand and tells her if she takes out her gun she’ll be arrested. They’re not Lycoris today, so whatever went on down in that station isn’t their concern. They also have a bunch of shopping bags, so they should just head home. The news reports a train collision and derailment, but makes clear that no one was hurt or injured.

That’s because as far as the public is concerned, the Lycoris are no one. The deeds those young girls performed defending the citizenry from agents of destruction will never be heralded; they may not even receive funerals. They had no family except each other, and now they’re all dead and the incident that killed them swept under yet another rug.

That’s why it’s so important to Chisato that Takina learn to loosen up and live a little, whether it’s wearing cuter clothes or less tactical underwear, spending too much money on too many calories or carbs, or being goofballs beside the fish tanks. Because people out there like the green-haired guy (Majima) and Robota (who makes contact with him and proposes a partnership) want to destroy the Lycoris and what they represent.

Chisato and Takina could be killed in the line of duty any day, at any moment, and their deeds and sacrifice forgotten. So it behooves them to look up at the blue sky, feel the wind in their hair, and laugh when they can.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

A Couple of Cuckoos – 10 – Cup Ramen and Foie Gras

When Erika takes off to hang out with her mom (the one who raised her) Sachi doesn’t waste the sudden opportunity to hang out with her Onii. She ostensibly wants to buy a gift for their mom, but both of seem to agree their mom isn’t much of a gift receiver, so you have to think part of her just wants to see what it’s like to go on something like a date with Nagi.

The two settle on an apron (and sure enough, their mom could take or leave it) but when Sachi comes upon the idea, Nagi rewards her with a head pat, which pisses her off to no end. As much as she pretends not to stand him, Sachi wants Nagi to see her as a girl, not an imouto. Alas, he’s utterly oblivious. He just wants to study and win Hiro, which is why he’s probably none too pleased about suddenly being yanked out of the house by Erika.

Erika, who herself was blissfully reveling in her first cup ramen, got a text from her dad saying he’s coming—no discussion, not argument, he’s just coming and that’s that—so she ditches both wallet and phone, grabs Nagi, and heads out. Where doesn’t matter; that even she’s not sure is the point. No GPS or purchase history means even someone as rich and powerful as her dad can’t find her if she doesn’t want to see him.

Instead, Sachi is person who encounters her dad making himself at home in the house. She initially thinks he’s a burglar, but she should have called the cops anyway, considering he later lures her out and plys her with foie gras. I’m with the wait staff of his restaurant: it’s weird that he suddenly takes Sachi out to dinner.

Sachi is there for the foie gras, and also considers it equitable to tell Erika’s father about how she and Nagi are getting along. She probably doesn’t realize she’s being a snitch, because she’s distracted by the fact this is another opportunity for her: if she says they’re terrible together, she could potentially be able to swoop in and have Nagi to herself (again).

But Sachi is not a bad person, so she tells Erika’s father the truth: as mismatched as their personalities seem, Erika and Nagi definitely have a spark—je ne fois gras, if you will. Their chat is interposed between scenes of Nagi showing Erika a good time with zero yen thanks to a steep hill and a piece of cardboard.

As for Erika’s increasingly creepy dad, he heads into his office to admire a framed photo of him and Erika’s dad with Erika…and Nagi, looking like older toddlers. This is strange, as my understanding is they were separated at birth; this suggests they were reunited at some point. It also gives credence to the fact the “certain someone” Erika is trying to reach through SM is, in fact, Nagi, and the two of them simply somehow forgot they knew each other as kids.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 08 – Family’s Complicated

While Erika is out shopping, Nagi is preoccupied with her words on the beach about his “fate changing” if he knew who she was trying to reach through social media. That’s when Sachi shows up unannounced. With Erika out, she assumes Nagi messed things up, and gets him to reveal the issue.

Spending time with Sachi for the first time in a while gives him a taste of home, so he stops moping and remembers Umino family tradition to deal with things head-on. Only Sachi slips out while he’s making dinner and returns to the family’s tiny temporary rental, only to pack her things and head right back to Nagi and Erika’s.

Nagi, who gets a call from his mom saying Sachi has to come back tomorrow, tells Sachi she can’t stay, but it’s not just his call. It’s half Erika’s place too, and she doesn’t mind if her sister wants to stay. There’s also the matter of her needing help studying for entrance exams, and Erika dresses up like a stereotypical schoolteacher for that end.

That said, once she and Sachi are alone togeher, Erika manages to suss out the true reason her sister is there. When Erika suddenly showed up at her place, Sachi panicked. Would Nagi marry her and just be gone? She thought she had more time with her onii. She wanted more time. When they were little, they were very close. She pretends he’s a pain in the ass, but that clinginess still lingers.

The next morning Sachi earns her keep by making everyone a huge breakfast, then Erika takes her and Nagi out shopping for the things that will make Sachi more at home. In the process, the sister talk about how they’re always being flirted with and turning guys down.

Sure enough, they soon attract a crowd of onlookers while hanging out at a café. Nagi rushes to them, worried they got caught up in something, but trips and makes a fool of himself. That’s when both Erika and Sachi acknowledge him and suggest they get going, and it dawns on Nagi that his fiancée and sister are “kind of a big deal”.

The three have fun making a photo board, and christen it with a cute photo of the sisters and a very blurry Nagi rushing into the frame. But through all the eating and shopping and fun, he hasn’t been able to talk to Erika about what she said that day on the beach. So when she’s out of the bath, he’s kneeling in the hall, ready to talk.

He tells her he recognizes that everyone has their problems even if they don’t talk about him, and that he doesn’t just want to pry out of curiosity. But Erika said what she said, and Nagi heard her, and he doesn’t want to pretend that exchange didn’t happen. He may have been raised to face people head-on, but he admits to her he’s not ready for an answer that may “change his fate,” so he asks her to wait until he’s ready.

Erika’s serious look is soon replaced by a hearty laugh, but she agrees, and so her mystery remains intact. While this outing brought Sachi more to the forefront and made her more of, well, a character, I could never quite shake the feeling the episode was dragging its feet. The household has grown by one, but it feels like no one is taking the situation seriously yet; it’s just three people playing house. I wonder how long that status quo can hold.

Spy x Family – 06 – Smiling Doesn’t Help at All

At the fitting for her new Eden uniform, the seamstress warns both Anya and her parents of all of the pitfalls of student and parent life. There are all of these ongoing overlapping battles—between the richer kids and less rich kids, between children of Eden alumni and non-alumni, between boarders and commuters. Oh, and the kidnappers. Anya isn’t sure she wants to go to school anymore.

But the must, as she’s the lynchpin of Operation Strix. Loid visits a secret installation beneath a photo booth where his Handler gives him the details of Strix Phase Two. Anya simply attending Eden won’t be enough for Loid to get to Desmond, whose son is sure to be an honor student, called an Imperial Scholar. Students must earn eight “Stella” merits to become one. Alternatively, earning eight “Tonitrus Bolts” or demerits will result in immediate expulsion.

With the new information that Anya must not just be an Eden student but an elite one, Loid is no doubt headed to the drugstore to purchase a couple bottles of Mylanta to deal with his stress. Meanwhile while he’s out late for work, Yor takes Anya to get her newly-completed uniform, which she then shows off to everyone in the park.

When they go to the supermarket to buy stuff to cook (Yor wants to give cooking the old Eden college try), some n’er-do-wells attempt to kidnap Anya to extort Yor for cash, thinking she’s the maid. She puts them in her place, ruining the groceries, but Anya pats her head in praise. She likes her cool, strong mama, and asks her to train her so she can be strong and cool to. Despite believing otherwise, Yor is being a good mother to Anya.

Considering the cutthroat atmosphere of Eden College the next day, I would think that basic martial arts training would be a requisite of every new student. Yor also teaches Anya some important social skills, but one kid is so nasty, she eventually cant help but punch him using what she learned from mom.

The kid who gets punched just happens to be Damian, the second son of Donovan Desmond. But if she doesn’t get off on the right foot with befriending him, at least she earns a new best friend in Becky Blackbell.

Post-punch, Henderson has no choice but to give Anya at least one Tonitrus Bolt, though the usual punishment is three. There hasn’t been a single day of actual classes and already Anya is negative-one Stella star from being an Imperial Scholar and has made an enemy of the boy she was supposed to befriend.

It’s here where I must comment that Loid really did take a gamble simply throwing Anya into the fray having nothing but a little basic combat and social training from Yor. Granted he doesn’t know Yor is a socially awkward assassin, but he knows what he is: a master spy, and thus a master of human behavior.

I get he needed that briefing from Handler, but he should have taken the lead with teaching Anya more about how to act arond others and how to properly react to adversity. Her bolt is as much his fault as hers. Still, I’m not as pessimisstic as all three families look in the photo taken at the end of orientation.

For one thing, I suspect being punched by Anya might endear her to Damian, considering she did something no one ever did. For another, Anya’s ability to read the minds of her classmates can be an enormous boon…once she learns how to use use it properly.

Heroines Run the Show – 06 – From Crap Creeps to Cute Crêpes

If Aizou is out of shampoo, Hiyori has no problem walking into the boy’s shower to get him more. It’s steamy, and it’s not like she’s in there to sneak a peek; she’s just doing her job. She’s been acting more assertively as a manager should, but to these two old-fashioned chums, she couldn’t be acting less like a “girl” if she tried. 

When Tamura gets the three of them tickets for a FT4 show, Hiyori says she’s already going with her childhood friend Nagisa, who is an FT4 superfan. At such an affair it’s expected to “dress up”. The boys want to give her a makeover, but she demurs.

After a day of observing other girls—Hattori, Setoguchi, Narumi—Hiyori encounters perhaps the cutest girl she’s seen of the day, and she’s being harassed by a creep. Hiyori breaks his hold and runs off with the girl, and you know they’ll lose the creep because if anything, Hiyori can run.

I liked the detail of how she’s not the slightest bit out of breath once the coast is clear, while the cutie is huffing and puffing. The girl thanks her by buying her a crepe at a place she’s always wanted to try, but not alone. Before you know it they’re exchanging bites.

When the girl notices she’s staring a bit, Hiyori just mentions how she thinks she’s super cute…a heroine, not an “extra” or “bit player” like her. The girl admits to having also been insecure for a long time due to someone she knew and admired being so pretty. This girl posits that being loved, not cute, is what truly makes a heroine.

She was saved from a creep by Hiyori, and is now having fun eating crepes and talking with her. She likes Hiyori, so maybe she’s a heroine after all! The girl’s name is Narumi Mona and is, unbeknownst to Hiyori, is an up-and-coming idol, and presumably Narumi Sena’s sister.

Their talk inspires Hiyori to try researching some fashion mags, but she’s caught by Yuujirou and Aizou, who demand to know what she’s up to. She tells them how the one time she wore a cute dress and felt like a princess, Nagisa told her she looked “weird”, which led to a complex about looking too “girly”.

The boys say Nagisa sucks, but Hiyori then lists all the ways Nagisa doesn’t such and has always been there for her, especially following her dream of track. The fact remains, in no small part due to Nagisa’s teasing years ago, Hiyori doesn’t think she has what it takes to be a princess.

Yuujirou and Aizou then proceed to show her just how wrong both she and Nagisa are. They take her to their stylist who gives her an adorable new ‘do, then they take her to a classy clothier to try on a number of cozy classic looks.

I love the way the two boys fuss over Hiyori and bicker over the best way to dress her. They come off very much like two doting big brothers trying to make their sister into the princess they know she is…while also showing up the FT4 fan that gave their manager a complex.

After hair and clothes comes makeup and posture, which the boys also take care of back at the studio. It’s very My Fair Lady in the way the two cosmopolitan lads are trying to infuse some Tokyo style into their country bumpkin colleague. Hiyori has to deal with idol super-close-ups when they’re applying the makeup, which is very much a less-is-more affair.

When the time arrives to meet Nagisa at the station, Yuujirou and Aizou accompany Hiyori in her new duds, because they can’t wait to see the look on Nagisa’s face when she sees her. Ah, yes, that’s right…they think her childhood friend Nagisa is a girl. When Hiyori spots Nagisa, whom we’ve known was a boy since the end of last week, she’s so excited she runs as if not wearing a long skirt.

Nagisa catches her before she can touch the ground, and is revealed to the idols as a most strapping young lad…perhaps not as photo shoot worthy as either of them, but certainly handsome and fit nonetheless. He was also unquestionably a typical little boy who teased the girl he liked because he was an idiot.

His first reaction to Yuujirou and Aizou contains multitudes. It’s not (or it’s not just) that he may be irked by the fact Hiyori is hanging around two cute Tokyo boys who must look like nothing but trouble to a hayseed like Nagisa…it might more be the fact that he know’s they’re his beloved FT4’s rivals: LIPxLIP!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 04 – Anywhere is Fine

Izumi, always sensitive to the heat and sun, is struggling on the roof where his friends have gathered to discuss plans for summer break. Not only do I salute these kids for being on top of things—how many times are anime are summer breaks wasted due to lack of communication? Enter Shikimori, who surprises him by touching his face with a cold sports drink.

Hachimitsu also offers him some space under her parasol. This notably doesn’t worry Shikimori, as “it’s just Hachimitsu”, i.e. not someone trying to steal her Izumi! As for where they’re going for break, they decide on the river, as the beach would prove too much for Izumi. They make it clear they’re not compromising on his account; they want to go somewhere where everyone will have fun.

Nekozaki Kyou, the energetic heart of the friend group whom I find myself loving more and more as the series progresses, decides that despite it just being the river, everyone should wear swimsuits. So instead of studying for upcoming final exams, she brings everyone out shopping. When Izumi says he probably won’t be swimming, she says she’s fine not buying a swimsuit.

…That is until she spots Izumi gazing a tad too intently on a poster of a swimsuit model in a skimpy black bikini. While Izumi is simply admiring her muscles (confirming that Izumi has a type) Shikimori races to the swimsuit store and finds the same bikini…but is hesitant to purchase it. Nekozaki seconds that, and assure her she and Hachimitsu will find her one that suits her.

Nekozaki can tlel when Shikimori’s fiery competitive spirit and hatred of losing rears its head; it’s what ended up being the icing on the cake for why she made it a point to become friends with Shikimori. She already had a girl-crush on her for being her idea of a perfect, pure, ideal woman, and then they played one hell of a passionate basketball game, and Nekozaki simply couldn’t stay on the friendship sideline a second longer.

I’m of the mind that Nekozaki is selling herself far too short, and that Inuzuka would be lucky to have her as a girlfriend. I know “Inu”zuka and “Neko”zaki indicate an incompatible dynamic (cats and dogs, oil and vinegar), I think if they’re honest with each other they’d make a good couple. Their sniping at each other feels like a practiced act.

Once the girls rejoin the guys in the food court, Izumi notices how excited Shikimori looks and asks her what she bought. When Shikimori says nothing, he knows she’s lying. Nekozaki saw Shikimori have Izumi in the palm of her hand earlier, but here the tides have turned; there are plenty times when she’s in his palm. It’s why they work so well as a couple.

The first day of finals arrives, and Izumi has a particularly cursed day, even for him; ending with Shikimori is pulling him away from an angry (tiny) dog (shades of the excellent video gamey ED). Later, Izumi is lamenting being unable to study properly when Shikimori gives him a call simply to hear his voice.

Night calls between girlfriend and boyfriend are often veritable fonts of big time feels, but this scene is the cream of the crop. The two sitting in their rooms in the dark, connected by the starry night sky. Izumi tells her about his love of the stars, but how he never got a chance to stargaze as a kid due to it always being cloudy when he wanted to.

When Shikimori assures him she’ll take him somewhere to see the stars, Izumi brings up the fact she lobbied for them to go to the river rather than the beach, and states his desire to take her somewhere she wants to go. The thing is, Shikimori is fine with anywhere as long as he’s there.

The two spout so many sweet somethings to each other, and they both want to desperately see each other’s faces—completely forgetting the fact that video calls are a thing. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most adorable and heartwarming moments yet between these two desperately beautiful, loving souls.

In the after-credit omake, Shikimori is at a cooking class with Izumi’s beautiful but accident-prone mom. She’s naturally nervous around Izumi’s mom, considering looks-and-kindness-wise she’s basically an older female version Izumi.

As such, the scene is humming with romantic tension, especially when Izumi’s trips while bringing Shikimori a left-handed knife, and Shikimori catches the knife with one hand and Izumi’s mom with the other. If mama didn’t already know Shikimori is far more than just a cutie, she sure as heck knows now!

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