Jaku-Chara Tomozaki-kun – 09 – The Normiest Summer Ever

Summer break is here, but it won’t be a break from Tomozaki’s mission to master the game of life. It can’t be; it’s their last summer break in high school! His first task—go somewhere one-on-one with a girl who isn’t her—can be satisfied by going to that movie with Fuuka. But for Hinami victory ultimately means him regularly dating Fuuka, and she’ll be setting other goals for him between now and the end of August.

Hinami wants Tomozaki succeeds in his first date, so they have what she calls a “rehearsal date”, in which she texts him places he’ll suggest they go as if he had chosen them, and she’ll speak in a higher register and act like his date. While clothes shopping, she gives him a slightly scratched backpack she bought earlier for a cute button he buys for her. Then they hit up the electronics store and play some Tackfam at the Yontendo display.

It’s here where we watch Hinami openly struggling for once and not being The Best. I emphasize that she’s not acting here; she’s being her genuine self with him, and the pretend date suddenly feels like a real one. He considers their Tackfam playing to be the “best form of communication” for them; it’s when he realizes she’s not just a top-level normie but a dyed-in-the-wool gamer like him.

While having a bite, Hinami tells Tomozaki she already got the OK from Fuuka to give him her LINE ID, which saves him the trouble of asking her in person. Hinami gives him the brass tacks of his message, and Tomozaki bangs it out. It’s a bit lengthy, but it’s earnest and straightforward, so she clears it for sending. And despite warning Tomozaki that sometimes it takes a while for Fuuka to respond, she responds almost instantly with an enthusiastic “yes”—a definite good sign.

Before parting ways for the day, Hinami tells Tomozaki to keep the 4th and 5th open, as she and the rest of the gang are going to have a barbecue and sleepover, ostensibly as a ploy to get Yuzu and Nakamura together. But such a youthful normie event will be a veritable goldmine for Life XP Tomozaki needs to level up. I don’t think that Hinami “pulled strings” to get him invited—I’m sure they were all fine with him joining them—as someone who wishes to master the game, this is a challenge he can’t pass up. He’s in.

First Hinami invites him to join her and Mizusawa for a planning event at Mimimi’s. There, his task will be to “mess with” Mizusawa at least three times, for as she says, “moderate teasing is key to making friends as equals.” It’s a super-clinical, even cynical way of looking at bonding rituals, but that doesn’t make it not true!

Sure enough, as soon as Tomozaki arrives ready for an opening to mess with Mizusawa, he is the one messed with. But when Mimimi requests a change of venue since her grandma is over, Hinami suggests the house of the one who lives closest to Mimimi. That’s Tomozaki, and as a result his little sister and mom totally freak out by the top-tier characters who are suddenly hanging out with their Fumiya!

While playfully searching Tomozaki’s room looking for porn, Mimimi finds a box full of totally worn-out old controllers. He explains that while they’re no longer sensitive enough for Tackfam, they’re still fine for other games. Hinami takes a particular wordless interest in these, actual artifacts of his grueling effort to become the best that she can hold in her hands. No doubt she has a few such controllers in a box in her room too!

Planning to bring Yuzu and Nakamura closer together turns to talk of the future in general, with the knowledge that with exams next year there won’t be as many opportunities to hang out; this summer must not be squandered. Tomozaki successfully messes with Mizusawa thrice. Mizusawa also noticed the hair gel he recommended to him isn’t being used too frequently, and Tomozaki demonstrates why when he applies it: he needs some pointers.

What follows is a very sweet little scene as Tomozaki films himself as Mizusawa shows him the proper way to apply the gel. Mizusawa notes that Tomozaki takes everything seriously, and wonders why he goes to such lengths, with everything from hair gel to Mimimi’s speech. Tomozaki likens life to a game he doesn’t want to lose, and Mizusawa can see, but from his perspective, if life is only a “game”, why not loosen up and enjoy it?

It’s a very enlightening exchange of viewpoints, as the two guys treat the word “game” very differently. When Tomozaki returns to his room with his new ‘do, Mimimi is the one messing with him, using a pen as a microphone to report “something fishy going on.” After everyone leaves, he suggests Saturday the 1st for the movie with Fuuka, which is fine with her.

Now comes the even I’ve been looking forward to since it was first suggested: his big date with Fuuka. Tomozaki is the first to arrive at the meeting spot, which means he gets to see Fuuka before she sees him, and watch her neutral, almost forlorn expression turn to pure quiet joy when she spots him waving to her. Both of them are so happy and giddy this is actually happening, the two freeze up a bit, until Tomozaki says “Shall we?” and they head to the theater.

When Tomozaki mentions her long sleeves, she tells him how she has extremely sensitive skin that burns easily in the sun. He misses an opportunity to compliment her, but at the same time saying something like “I think your skin is lovely” might have made her to self conscious. In any case, Fuuka is so excited upon seeing the movie posters she draws quite close to him, then realizes how close that is an retreats a bit.

Once they’re in their seats, Tomozaki can’t help but look over at Fuuka beside him and blush with happiness. After the film they grab a bite, but as he continues talking about the film in detail, Tomozaki realizes he’s talking too much and not giving her an opening to add to the conversation. It’s here where my stomach started to sink along with Fuuka’s expression as Tomozaki overcompensates by bringing up a string of conversation topics that don’t mesh well.

Worse, he thinks it’s going well when it’s clear from Fuuka’s look that she notices something is off. He realizes this too when she comes right out and says he’s a “mystery” to her, in the way he suddenly swings from being really easy to really hard to talk to. An awkward silence ensues.

Still, and this is key, those moments of awkwardness do not end up sinking the date or their prospects for each other. Instead, while on the train Fuuka clarifies her comments: she didn’t mean what she said about Tomozaki to be a bad thing, but a good thing. She’s never been good at talking with boys, so the times when it’s easy to talk with him represent the first such time. That makes her happy, which is why, without any needed input from him she tells him she wants to go out again sometime.

Tomozaki reports his great victory to Hinami over the phone while she’s painting her toes. She urges him to reflect on the “hard to talk to thing”, which really comes down to lack of experience on skills on both his part and Fuuka’s. The more time they spend together, the more comfortable they’ll get talking with one another.

Hinami may well have expected Fuuka would want to hang out with Tomozaki again, so she already has the ideal event for their second date: a fireworks show on the sixth. Tomozaki texts Fuuka, and she again gets back to him immediately with a yes. But before that he’ll tackle the barbecue and sleepover with his normie friends. I for one can’t wait for either!

Jaku-Chara Tomozaki-kun – 05 – Three Digits of Damage

We’re unfortunately not treated to Tomozaki’s movie date with Hinami, though we do get a glimpse of the all-important post-move café stop. Suffice it to say, there’s no movement on their matchup; things remain at a clinical master-pupil remove. Later that weekend they play TackFam together, where at least Tomozaki can still school her once in a while!

Tomozaki built confidence with his passionate defense of Nakamura and TackFam, and Izumi is now initiating chats with him in class, as is Nakamura’s friendlier mate Mizusawa, who suggests they go on a double date. Hinami, who’ll also go, leaves the second girl up to Tomozaki, and he chooses Izumi, wanting to build on the rapport they’ve developed thus far. The “in” he uses the group date is Nakamura’s birthday, which he learned from the flash cards.

While his invitation is rocky at first, he adjusts in “mid-battle” to brand Nakamura’s birthday as a good opportunity to make up with him. That suits Izumi, who is in. Later, Mizusawa calls out Tomozaki’s recent progress as him having read a “de-geekification book.” He’s not far off. Mizusawa also notes how chummy Tomozaki has been with Hinami, and thinks he’s “up to something” by then asking Izumi out.

Once Tomozaki navigates the initially intimidating TWINE app (quietly impressing his imouto), the shopping trip for Nakamura’s birthday is on. Hinami had imagined a much simpler bite to eat, and also seemed to object to Tomozaki inviting Izumi rather than someone else. In both cases, he upped the difficulty level of the event, and he only has himself to blame if it’s all too much.

His goal during the event is to make two successful suggestions related to the shopping trip. He actually does make one, as they head to the electronics store on his suggestion. It’s also his line of thinking that leads Izumi to purchasing styling wax, but that’s only an assist. To get a group to agree to your suggestions is to “control the mood”.

During the trip, Izumi draws close to Tomozaki and brings up the rumors about Hinami and Mizusawa—rumors that appear to be supported, but not proven, by how chummy they are together. Tomozaki doesn’t admit it to Hinami later, but learning of that rumor threw him off his game for the remainder of the trip…something Hinami does notice both during and afterwards.

When he asks Izumi for specifics about the rumors, he doesn’t get any—they’re just rumors. No doubt if he brought them up to Hinami, she’d deny them, and likely be justified in doing so, but who knows? We’re not any more privy to the rest of Hinami’s life as Tomozaki is. In any case, she keeps the focus on him in their sewing room briefing.

While it’s good that Tomozaki is starting to notice the improvement in his appearance (especially after the sample wax), he made a critical error in making no distinction between quality suggestions with persuasive suggestions. In reality, it can be hard to convince a group of a good suggestion, or easy to convince them of a bad one, and vice versa.

The only way to make headway in a group dynamic is to be ready to make suggestions that you know the group will accept. Misusawa did this organically, but Tomozaki will have to work at it to get it down. He briefly calls any game where crap suggestions can beat good ones due to social “trickery” to be “garbage” mechanics, but Hinami describes a theoretical “Negotiation Game” employing both effective speech skills and abundant info on one’s audience to unify interests and create consensus. In that context, Tomozaki sees it as a well-made game after all.

Mizusawa was impressed by his passion, but Tomozaki can’t achieve his goals by acting like Ace Attorney delivering a closing argument. Negotiation is key. And all this will imminently come into play as Hinami becomes a nominee for the student council. To her surprise, she’ll be opposed by Mimimi! Will this be the first instance of Tomozaki witnessing Hinami’s strategy falter? Either way, observing how Hinami fares should prove instructive.

P.S. I’ve never had shrimp on a pizza before, but the anime industry is apparently urging me to try it.

Jaku-Chara Tomozaki-kun – 03 – Character Creation, Phase 2

While a plethora of new characters were introduced last week, this episode keeps things simple by narrowing down the ones with whom Fumiya interacts to three: Aoi, Fuuka, and Yuzu. That not only keeps things from getting too scattered but is in keeping with Aoi’s desire to figure out who is best worth Fumiya’s time and effort.

Of course, first thing’s first: making him sufficiently presentable to converse with people. That means a trip to the mall for some new threads, a new haircut, and some lunch conversation practice. Fumiya has learned from the tapes that he has a tendency to mutter; Aoi tells him to use fewer words and rely more on gestures and tone to convey his emotions.

Quite by surprise, Fuuka is a waitress at the restaurant where they have lunch. Refreshingly, Fuuka doesn’t seem necessarily threatened by seeing them together, nor does she assume they’re on a date—she simply hadn’t pegged them as being friends material. Based on little details she noticed during their encounter, Aoi is convinced that Fuuka should be the “first heroine” Fumiya should pursue in his “playthrough.”

At their next meeting, Fumiya proudly reports that one of his small goals was achieved: his sister noticed he was putting more effort into his appearance. While Fumiya feels like he’s relying on “cheats” like dressing like the store mannquin or getting his hair done, Aoi insists that because he’s trusting in her and doing as she says, he deserves at least some of the credit for his success.

That said, Aoi isn’t going to start going easy on him. His next goal is to go somewhere alone with a girl who isn’t her. His related task for the week is to talk to Izumi Yuzu at least twice a day. Why Yuzu and not Fuuka? Because, as Aoi points out, real life isn’t a dating sim. Raising “affection levels” of one girl can raise them for all, along with increasing their innate possessiveness.

Fumiya is still weary that he’s not being “sincere”, but Aoi tells him it’s too early in his progress to worry about that. He’ll cross that bridge when he’s in a more serious relationship. For now, he needs “ins”, however he can get them. Things don’t go too smoothly with Yuzu at first; topics he chooses tend to lead to awkward conversational dead ends. But he keeps at it, and his quota for the week is eventually filled.

While in the library pretending to read a random book while coming up with TackFam strategies, Fumiya is approached by Fuuka, who notices the author he’s pretending to read is her favorite. Fumiya doesn’t correct her, and Fuuka ends up confessing something she’s never told anyone: she’s working on a novel, and would love it if he (and only he) read it sometime.

It’s a lovely little exchange because it’s the first of its kind fo Fuuka as well as Fumiya. Kayano Ai really sells Fuuka’s warmth and quiet enthusiasm, and Fuuka really does seem like a suitable person for Fumiya to pursue, and he has the perfect “in”.

As Aoi reiterates, it’s still too early to worry about “sincerity”; she can tell he’ll use it as an excuse to run away if she lets him. While he filled his quota in talking to Yuzu twice a day for a week, he may feel like he failed, like a battle he loses that results in KO and Game Over.

But unlike games of that kind, in the game of life you gain as much if not more XP by losing than by winning, so you’re better off keeping up the fight than starting over from scratch. That assertion really speaks to the gamer in Fumiya. The losses he tallied against Yuzu weren’t in vain; they got him to at least Level 3, and he can use what he learned from those failures to succeed with Fuuka.

But then life throws him for a loop when he spots Yuzu sitting alone and looking somewhat down. Remembering Aoi’s advice for him to mention something about her clothes or face, Fumiya tactlessly tells Yuzu she looks “gloomy”, but she doesn’t storm off. In fact, she just keeps looking gloomy, and even gets to the point that tears are welling in her eyes when she comes right out and asks him to teach her how to play TackFam.

I don’t believe this is the same kind of “in” as Fuuka’s secret novel reading—it’s possible Yuzu wants to learn to play so she can play with another boy she’s interested in, or maybe she just wants to learn TackFam, period. But the fact Fumiya reached out to her so much in the last week made him a viable person for Yuzu approach with such a request. So it could be an overture for a friendship. We shall see!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Cardcaptor Sakura – 40 – Tower of Dreams

Sakura, Tomoyo, Syaoran and Meiling go on a shopping and sightseeing trip to Tokyo…on their own. Wait, aren’t these eleven-year-old kids who require supervision during such a trip? Apparently not! I guess all that cardcapturing has forced them to grow up fast. In any case, I was definitely vicariously living through them as they did ordinary city things now made far more difficult during the Covid ordeal.

As the quartet darts around the metropolis, they are shadowed by a glowing blue butterfly that is most definitely a Clow Card that starts having an effect on them one by one. First there’s Tomoyo, who is happily recording their day when all of a sudden an entire squadron of Sakuras in battle costumes surround her. As you would expect, Tomoyo enjoys this hallucination immensely.

When the group catches a movie and it gets to a romantic scene with a seaside sunset, Syaoran shows himself out of the theater to grab some drinks as Sakura and Meiling both swoon. Unfortunately, upon reaching the theater door he finds himself within the movie as its protagonist and Sakura as his love interest, flustering him even more than if he’d just kept his seat.

From there, the group heads to the Tokyo Tower to get some birds-eye views of the city. Despite having never been there in person before, as we know Sakura has been dreaming of the tower on-and-off ever since Syaoran showed up, with the dreams increasing in frequency when Mizuki-sensei arrived. Upon entering the tower’s base, Sakura feels…off? Then she encounters both Touya and Yukito working up in the observation deck, even though they’re supposed to be playing soccer.

Night falls, and Sakura watches her dream unfold from a different viewpoint, and it’s confirmed beyond doubt that Mizuki is the woman perched on the tower. Sakura starts to wig out, not sure what to do, but “Dream” Sakura approaches Sakura and tells her everything will be alright and work out in the end. From there, Sakura wakes up to find she never left the tower’s lobby, with Syaoran supporting her with one hand while pinning the Dream card with the Time card.

Sakura manages to seal Dream, which flies into Syaoran’s hand as the one who subdued it, and the four continue their trip without the threat of slipping into any more dreams. Then we cut back to one more wide shot of the tower and there is Mizuki-sensei, in broad daylight, magic bell in hand, smiling her inscrutable smile. Kero warns Sakura that the dreams she’s experiencing foretell events that will come to pass in the real, waking world. But the nagging question remains…What the heck is Mizuki up to?

Oregairu 3 – 02 – This Has to Be Done Now

The tipsy Haruno invites everyone upstairs so Yukino can say what she wants to say, and even pops out some solo champagne as she listens. The  operative word there is listen: she actually does so, now that she can tell Yukino has something to clearly say.

Haruno says she’ll support Yukino in her efforts as a big sis should, but warns that if she goes back home, she may not be able to leave for a while. Yukino already knows the difficulty of what she’s doing, but she can’t win (her independence) if she doesn’t play, so she’s decided to finally take the field.

As Yui stays over to help Yukino pack her things, Haruno walks with Hikigaya, and expresses her astonishment over her little sis finally making herself clear. The ol’ Haruno cynicism is still there, citing that “nothing will change” whether thing works out Yukino or not, but that giving up on “various things” is part of becoming an adult, and it’s good to see Yukino take those first steps.

She also confides in Hikki that she’s not actually drunk, even though her face is flush and she’s favoring his shoulder. The flushness suddenly fades and she stands straighter, and her demeanor and voice suddenly more closely resemble Yukino’s.

No matter how much Haruno has drunk, a part of her has always been able to stay calm and observe and temper herself. And she has a sneaking suspicion Hikki is the same, whispering “you can’t get drunk” in his ear.  Whether it’s alcohol…or love.

The next day at school, after a slight problem unlocking the club room, the trio are back at their places sipping tea when Isshiki Iroha makes her first appearance this season. She hooks up a portable projector and plays a TV drama, but not to just goof off. Instead of the end-of-year “thank you” party for grads, she wants to throw a prom, like Western high schools.

With so little time to prepare, it’s going to be a close call whether Iroha can actually get such an undertaking off the ground, and it wouldn’t even be for her class, but she’s determined to make it happen, stating her desire to be Prom Queen to be her primary motivator.

When Yukino tells her she’ll be queen for her own prom in two years even if she doesn’t “lay the groundwork”, Iroha stands her ground, insisting the prep is crucial to achieving her goals. Left unsaid is that within her selfish motivation there likely lies a desire to see Hikki, Yukino and Yui have a prom.

Yukino can probably sense this, and considering she has a lofty goal of her own, she’d be hypocritical if she pooh-pooh’s Iroha’s. So she agrees to help Iroha, but as an individual, not a Service Club member. She also tells Yui and Hikki they’re under no obligation to help her since it’s not an official request, but a personal one.

While they realize she wants to try to do this on her own, they’ll always be around to help out when needed (which is certain to be the case).

When Yui comes home and sees the photo of her between Yukino and Hikki, she frowns, and tells herself to forget the thing she saw while helping Yukino move: a photo of Yukino holding Hikki’s arm on the water ride, hidden behind the stuffed animals on her bed. Of course, Yui can’t forget what she saw, because it’s just another confirmation of the “place she can’t get into”, no matter how many times she stands in front of the door.

She interprets Yukino’s treasuring of that photo as further evidence she has feelings for Hikki. Yui has feelings for Hikki, but also loves Yukino, thus leaving her perpetually on the outside looking in. She’s had to be content with that limbo, in which her and Yukino and Hikki’s genuine feelings—and the conflicts they create—have been left unsaid, clearly or otherwise.

But with Yukino starting to speak clearly, that’s coming to an end. There’s an unavoidable element of destruction inherent in all acts of creation—in this case Yukino’s New Start, but also the overarching physical and psychological transition into adulthood. Yui sees that on the horizon and fears she’s unprepared…but isn’t everybody?

Oregairu 3 – 01 – Robot Tears

In the park, in the gentle snow, Yukino submits her request to Hachiman and Yui, a request non-readers have been waiting to hear for five years. When Haruno once asked her if she even has a “self”, Yukino pondered an answer and found the results disheartening. She wants to find that self, a self that isn’t following in the footsteps of Haruno or her mother.

While she’s enjoyed faux independence to this point, now she seeks the real thing, even when it means moving back home. Her request, then, is for Hachiman and Yui to support her in her efforts. They accept, walk with Yukino back home, and encounter a tipsy Haruno. Yukino wastes no time getting things moving, telling her big sis they need to talk.

The next morning, Hachiman stows Yui’s much-improved cookies in his desk and greets Komachi, who has already made him breakfast and is preparing for a strenuous day of interviews for entering high school. Their semi-antagonistic banter may feel a tad performative to an outsider new to their interactions, but that’s mitigated by the fact the banter flows so organically and is studded with moments of genuine sibling affection.

While waiting for Komachi to meet up with him for some shopping, Hachiman runs into Kawasaki Saki and her own imouto, Keika, who’s a lot younger than Komachi. Saki remarks how Hachiman is so used to spoiling his little sister, he’s totally unaware he’s doing the same to hers. Then again, at a time when Komachi is growing up fast—entering high school, ye gods!Hachiman is happy to pamper a little sister without pushback.

Hachiman brings up Saki’s brother Komachi shows up, elated and hyper, then when Komachi arrives, Saki observes more of their brother-sister banter. Considering her extreme reaction to Hachiman’s offhand “I love you” during the cultural festival, and her reactions to Hachiman here, I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s developed a teensy little thing for him.

From there, Hachiman and Komachi go on a multi-vector shopping trip, though Komachi earlier remarked that any attempt by her bro to call it a date was “creepy”. Still, the two clearly have a ton of fun flitting from one place to another, culminating in buying groceries for dinner, which Komachi prepares after doing all of the house chores without Hachiman’s help.

These are all efforts by Komachi to make up for slipping in her chore duties during her high school entrance prep. Hachiman never made a big deal out of any of it, but the fact Komachi wants to make it up to him, and he doesn’t resist, says a lot about how much their relationship has improved even as the two go through such major changes in their lives. She then kneels, bows, and formally thanks her brother for taking care of her to this point; she’s to a large degree the person she is thanks to his care and love.

Like Yukino, Komachi doesn’t want to be pampered and spoiled forever as she ends up following a pre-determined path. The two women seek to strike out and prove to themselves they’re capable enough stand on their own and choose their own road to travel, while still accepting moral and practical support from their family and friends.

Hachiman can’t help but tear up over Komachi’s mature display. Rewarding days, months and years lie ahead as Komachi will continue to make him proud…but his days of wiping chocolate from her face are over.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 09 – All To Themselves

Pictured: Not Ichika

Yotsuba approaches Fuutarou in the hall with Miku, excited about the upcoming School Camp and the campfire legend, but when it comes time for a study group, Yotsuba runs away and Ichika has a shoot, but not before giving Miku a wig so she can pose as Ichika at her class meeting. However, it turns out a guy in Ichika’s class lied about that meeting so he could ask her to dance with him at the campfire. “Michika” wasn’t ready for this level of acting!

Thankfully Fuutarou was listening in and intervenes when the guy suspects she’s not really Ichika. Miku then offers the excuse that she’s already dancing with Fuutarou at the campfire, and clings to him in order to convince the guy that they’re a couple. Miku even has the gall to ask the guy why one confesses. His answer is because you want that person “all to yourself.” But how does that work if you’re one of “five fifths together as one”?

With that matter settled, the quints (minus Ichika) surprise Fuutarou by taking him out shopping for school camp clothes, all their treat in exchange for serving as their model for their ideal guy getup. Their choices say a lot about their personalities, as Miku chooses traditional garb, Yotsuba chooses loud and gaudy, Itsuki chooses…her idea of tough and manly. Only Nino, who has pretty consistently good fashion sense, seems to take things seriously, choosing a stylish yet understated look.

But when Fuutarou checks his phone, he learns that his beloved Raiha is in bed with a fever. He stays by her side all night and into the morning. He misses the bus for camp, but he says it doesn’t matter. The heavily worn camp leaflet suggests otherwise, and both his dad and Raiha know it. Raiha contacts Itsuki, who comes to fetch Fuutarou.

To his surprise, the four other quints are with her; the six of them will head to camp by car (specifically the family’s custom six-door E-Class Benz). He reveals once they’re on the road (but stuck in traffic) that other than their place, he hasn’t spent a night away from home since elementary school, and all that pent up excitement seems to have bestowed him with a “traveler’s high,” combined with the scant amount of sleep he got due to watching over Raiha. That doesn’t save him from a savage backdoor flip-off from Nino!

They’re not able to make it to camp due to a winter storm, so Fuutarou and the quints shack up at a fancy hot springs inn. Nino warns her sisters how men can transform into wolves under such conditions, but since this is a harem rom-com there isn’t any other choice: the six of them have to share a single room intended for only four.

Before a sumptuous feast that will put tomorrow’s curry to shame, Miku informs Ichika of what she did to preserve her cover, namely say Ichika was going to dance with Fuutarou. Ichika, harboring her own feelings for the guy, is fine with the arrangement, especially if it’s okay with Miku, while Miku is fine with it because it was the result of her lie, and because she doesn’t consider Ichika a romantic rival. And considering how little she understands love and dating, it’s no wonder!

After dinner the sisters make avail themselves of the outdoor hot baths. Nino again implores everyone to remain vigilant, as Fuutarou’s traveler’s high makes him that much more of an unpredictable threat. In order to mitigate that threat, she gets them to all part their hair the same way so he won’t know who he’s sleeping beside. All this caution and planning are moot, as Fuutarou is totally passed out when they return to the room.

The next morning, which is bathed in heavenly light, Ichika finds herself dangerously close to a still-sleeping Fuutarou, having drifted there in her sleep. She’s happy to get another look at him asleep and draws even closer , admitting to herself that if this makes her lose her Ichika cool, she can’t exactly refer to him as “just a friend.”

When Itsuki pops in to announce breakfast, she catches a glimpse of Ichika looming over Fuutarou, though it’s such a short look before she retreats she’s not 100% sure which sister it was, only that it was one of them and she has no idea what to make of that!

Fuutarou’s Wardrobe by Nino

To summarize, Ichika’s becoming more honest with herself about Fuutarou and Miku may have just gifted her a crucial leg-up in that pursuit. Yotsuba is throwing out all kinds of hints, Itsuki wants to determine if Fuutarou is an “apt tutor” by maintaining proper distance, and Nino longs for Fuutarou’s bad boy “relative”, genuinely unaware the photo is of Fuutarou himself.

Finally, Ichika’s career is taking off, which means she may soon have to change schools to make it work. With all these emotions and developments swirling around the quints, this could prove to be a school camp for the ages: marking an end to some things and the beginning of others. In other words, buckle up!

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 02 – Civil War in the Brain!

Kaguya decides a good way to get closer to Miyuki and determine the best birthday gift for him is through Miyuki’s ethereally beautiful sister Kei. Unfortunately, for the first half of their shopping trip she’s stymied by the Fujiwara sisters monopolizing Kei. It’s only when Kei manages to get away and sit beside Kaguya that any progress is made.

In this case, “progress” not only means that Kaguya determines that a gift for Miyuki should be practical (and not too extravagant), but that Kei is so much like her brother (despite her claims to the contrary), that Kaguya starts to blush as if she were on a date with him, and comes to consider the Fujiwaras floozies for glomming onto Kei—until she herself can’t resist but join said glomming!

Kaguya may have a good idea of a gift for Miyuki, but when it comes to the cake, she clearly lets her “Fool” side override the “Ice Queen” side when she commissions a expensive, towering wedding-style confection. A civil war proceeds to unfold between the two sides within Kaguya’s head.

Kaguya’s younger self presides as judge, but her “normal” self—a combination of all three sides—is the ultimate arbiter. The courtroom drama that plays out is a coup for seiyu Koga Aoi, who deftly juggles four distinct voices at once representing the four Kaguyas. In the end, she takes ownership of her decision, and the need to compromise between the sides rather than choose one voice in her head.

The resulting choice to present a single elegant slice to Miyuki once they’re alone in the office, along with the thoughtful gift of a fan emblazoned with her own calligraphy, turns out to be the right one. Meanwhile, the remainder of the embarrassing cake is sealed away in a closet.

While Kaguya wins this round, Miyuki is hardly the “loser”, as he is thrilled to have received such a cool (literally!) gift and personal attention. The next day, he realizes he could easily use the fan as ammunition to get external parties (i.e. Chika) to conclude that Kaguya is in love with him. Yet he decides to hold his fire; he’s “not the kind of man” to to callously use a girl’s feelings against her.

However, Kaguya set things up so Chika would think Miyuki is the one in love with Kaguya, since he didn’t tell anyone but Kaguya about his birthday. It’s a sign that Kaguya still isn’t leaning too far on one extreme or the other of her personality. The lovey-doveyness is there, but so is the scheming. Still, as Miyuki fans himself with her handmade gift, her delighted lovey-dovey side ends up distracting her from her scheming, and she gets all wobbly!

Realizing he should never have gone easy on Kaguya in the first place, Miyuki manages to turn the tables. He tells Chika how Kaguya has actually known about his birthday for some time, and describing the romantic setting she arranged in which to present the gift. Kaguya is suddenly in real trouble of taking the L this round until she’s saved by Yuu, who also knew it was Miyuki’s birthday and gave him a fountain pen.

The loss passes to Chika, who was both used by both Kaguya and Miyuki in their love war and came to the wrong conclusion. Only at the end of the day it’s the right conclusion, since the prez and veep indeed both love each other. Alas, Kaguya’s kind thanks to Yuu for bailing her out only make him uneasy.

This week focused on the multitudes within Kaguya at war with one another while her whole self is at war with Miyuki on the outside. It also found time to keep the little mini-competition between siblings Miyuki and Kei going (Miyuki got a cool fan from Kaguya, but Kei is now on first-name basis with her)—using just the bumpers!

Through it all, Chika and Yuu are the wild cards that can turn the tide of the battles at any time, lending a thrilling unpredictability to segments. This episode once again demonstrates Love is War is a comedy with writing and performers at the height of their powers.

Lord El-Melloi II Case Files – 06 – Mage Girls Trip

Six episodes in, were you ready for the titular Rail Zeppelin arc to begin in earnest? Well you may have been and I may have been, but apparently the show wasn’t, so instead we get a bottle episode. Gray asks Reines about the Holy Grail War and her mentor’s role in it, and Reines agrees to tell her, but only if she gets to take Gray shopping at Carnac, London’s largest and most extravagant store.

After dressing Gray up in a number of fetching ensembles, they are joined by Luviagelita Edelfelt, Carnac’s newly-installed owner, and she joins their “girls’ party.” She’s also responsible for the décor—for which the word gaudy doesn’t do justice—which is magically formulated to stimulate customers’ desire to spend. A slideshow of cute moments among the trio ensues.

While resting in the owner’s room, Reines finally tells Gray about Iskandar, though can’t speak to what precisely the former Mr. Velvet went through. Then, in an instant, all of the color leaves their surroundings, and the three of them are the only people in the entire store. More strangely, there is no way to exit without returning where you started.

Breaking the Bechdel Test, the three ask “What Would Lord El-Melloi II Do?” and with the whydunit not making sense, conclude this isn’t an incident perpetrated by anyone, but an accident brought about by the excessively ornate renovations, both physical and magical. Luvia elects to clean up her own mess, utilizing her extensive pro wrestling(!) skills to neutralize the automated security force.

After that, Reines has Trim smash the central relic controlling the store’s magecraft, which shatters the bounded field and returns the three to the normal world. Reines later deduces that the spell wouldn’t let fortune escape, implying the three ladies were treasures not to be taken outside. When Gray protests that unlike Reines and Luvia she’s “not that special,” Reines reminds her of the noble phantasm she carries…then encourages her to deliver the gift she bought for Lord El-Melloi.

She’s unable to do so, but primarily due to the Lord’s mood when she returns. He’s in a mood because the Mantle of Iskandar was stolen from him, replaced by a note inviting him to—you guessed it—the Rail Zeppelin. El-Melloi then invites Gray to join him on that infamous train that buys and sells mystic eyes.

While not particularly essential viewing, this week’s Case Files was adequately diverting, featuring a rare combo of all-female characters (though El-Melloi was a frequent topic of conversation) and taking place in one huge, intriguing, isolated space. Gray also got to learn a little more about her mentor, and got a slight boost to her severely deficient self-esteem. In all, far from a waste of time.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 11 – Twitter, Ramen, And Missed Connections

This week’s collection of stories vary wildly in tone from ludicrous to serious to unabashedly earnest and poignant—and that’s all fine, since it depicts the reality of high school life, it’s highs, lows, and MEHs. First, due to their stubborn refusal to make the first move, both Kaguya and Miyuki are letting the sand pour away in the hourglass of summer without meeting up.

When Kaguya learns Hayasaka is following Miyuki on Twitter, she decides to sign up to mitigate her loneliness. Her appalling lack of IT skills (beyond speed typing) mean poor Hayasaka’s much-needed replenishing bath is being constantly interrupted by Kaguya panicked cries for assistance. In the end, Kaguya runs into the same issue as texting or calling: she has to make the first move to follow Miyuki (garnering her mental image of Miyuki saing “how cute” for once).

Alas, she’s unable to do so and risk breaking the stalemate. She and Miyuki might describe the importance of to winning the “war of love” and preserving their pride through inaction, but the “war” is Pyrrhic, and their pride only a thin facade barely concealing their fear. Hayasaka muses at how happy they’d be if they simply acted on their obvious mutual feelings, and is envious of the depth of those feelings.

Part Two is from the POV of a “ramen connoisseur” who treats the acts of ordering, seasoning, and eating ramen as a kind of war all its own. When Chika enters the same shop, he assumes she’s lost, but all of her actions suggest a fellow connoisseur, one of “his people.”

Even when she seemingly makes missteps that detract from his respect for her, she surprises both him and the chef with increasingly choice moves, from choosing super-firm noodles that will withstand the “mini-ramen” method, crushing garlic into the broth, and even draining the bowl like a boss, something that makes the aging dude recall his youth when sodium intake was of no concern.

Chika is adorable and awesome throughout the segment in which she attains an easy victory, living her best summer life while her president and vice-president wallow in their dark rooms. One day it finally becomes too much, and both of them don their uniforms and go to school in hopes of possibly meeting the other there.

They both have the right idea, but the wrong timing, as Kaguya has already departed the office by the time a winded Miyuki gets there by bike. The ennui and melancholy so very palpable in this gorgeous third segment that takes its time, and in which no one wins. The solution to seeing each other (something both want very badly) is to simply shoot a quick text to each other, but because neither can do that, they fail to meet. The pointless war continues.

Post-credits we get a surprise fourth-segment, narrated entirely by Kaguya in monologue. She describes all of the things that have kept her, the privileged daughter of a very wealthy man, from living a normal girl’s life and experiencing the simple things people like Chika take for granted.

The segment makes no attempt to hide Kaguya’s ornate, grandiose lifestyle, but also never fails to make us sympathize with her. The lack of warmth, love, or even the sharing of a damn room with her father, who summoned her to the main house for a two-second exchange, causing her to abandon shopping plans with Chika, her sister, and Kei, is particularly devastating, as is Hayasaka’s holding of her hand for emotional support.

The segment thankfully ends on a triumphant note: no longer will Kaguya have to settle for the view of distant lights from her giant, lonely bedroom window; she’s going to the festival to see them up close, with people she cares about and who care about her in return. Maybe, just maybe, an armistice in the war of love can be reached…

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 04 – Cat Ears, Banned Words, The First Text, French Invective

Citing that France is second only to Japan in cosplay popularity, Chika insists the StuCo welcome their new French exchange students while cosplaying. But when Kaguya and Miyuki put on cat ears, neither of them can resist smiling at the intolerable cuteness of the other.

Regardless, both don’t want the other knowing they find them cute, so they try to tough it out by grotesquely contorting their expressions in a futile effort to hide their mutual delight. To an outside observer like Chika, this looks like they’re glaring at each other with looks that could kill. Loser? Chika…for once!

The StuCo must organize a welcome party for the French, and two of them are needed to do all the necessary shopping, so Chika suggests the two losers of a “banned word” game will do the honors. This is a case of both Kaguya and Miyuki actually wanting to go shopping together, so it behooves them to let Chika win.

That suits Chika just fine, since she wants to win and pulls out all the stops to do so, demonstrating that while the Prez and Veep might look down on her as a second-rate intellect and airhead, she can more than handle herself in a banned-word game. She switches up her manner of speaking by rapping, and has the perfect words she knows Kaguya and Miyuki will readily say if properly stimulated: “love”, and “serious”, respectively.

With Kaguya and Miyuki both losing, their shopping date is set; they just have to agree when and where to meet, which requires one of them text the other for the first time. Kaguya’s maid (and audience surrogate) is somewhat exhausted by her charge’s beating around the bush (as are we all!) so she puts Kaguya in a corner by calling Miyuki then tossing the phone to her.

Miyuki’s extremely stern-sounding father answers, and eventually hands the phone over to his son, who is in the bathtub but doesn’t mind talking since his phone is waterproof. Once they’re talking, the tension fades away, but Kaguya makes the mistake of hanging up when Miyuki was in the middle of saying something else.

Kaguya curses herself while kicking in bed, but the result of her error is that Miyuki ends up being the one to text her first, telling her to stay warm and have a good night. Winner: Kaguya. Unfortunately, it pours so hard Shibuya Station floods, and the shopping trip is cancelled before it can begin. Still, Kaguya’s instinct to go regardless was correct: Miyuki was waiting for her, in the rain, by Hachiko…with his waterproof phone.

Thankfully, Miyuki doesn’t catch cold just in time for the French exchange students’ welcome party, so we get to watch him try to bluff about speaking French when he only skimmed a guidebook. Meanwhile, Kaguya merely pretended not to know French, only to turn around and speak fluently with one of the students. Even Chika, daughter of a diplomat, speaks French and other languages. Just full of surprises!

Little does Miyuki know the headmaster intended the party to be an important test to determine whether he’s truly worthy of leading the school. Betsy, the French StuCo veep and notoriously foul-mouthed master of verbal invective is sicced on Miyuki, and she proceeds to absolutely enrobe him in nasty French insults. Since Miyuki doesn’t speak a lick of French, it all bounces off!

The thing that isolated him ends up convincing the headmaster he does have what it takes, by enduring everything Betsy could through at him with placid “oui, ouis” in response. Even better, when Kaguya overhears Betsy, she comes to Miyuki’s defense, all while showing Betsy is no match for a properly scary Japanese high school girl.

Once the party has ended, Kaguya is ashamed of her nasty word-using, but Miyuki reminds her, he doesn’t speak French, so he didn’t hear any particulars of what she said. All he knows is she didn’t like how Betsy was talking to him, and fought on his behalf. For that, she has his gratitude. And so the episode closes with a win for both Kaguya and Miyuki.

Grand Blue – 09 – It’s Good to Be the King

As the only guy in their circle who (still) has a girlfriend, Iori’s classmates make him arrange another mixer so they can have girlfriends too. Seriously I just can’t with these guys this week. Thankfully we don’t spend as much time with them here, and the balance of the first half is a game of “truth or dare” involving numbered chopsticks and a “King” who gets to give orders each round.

Because the other participants have to obey the King’s Orders, Iori and Kouhei wait to become King so they can order, say, Chisa to invite her friends to a mixer. However, they get the numbers mixed up, and end up ordering Shinji, who arranges a mixer at some kind of bar for musclebound giants. All because Kouhei mistook 3 or 1 for 4.

The second half returns to the Okinawa trip story, something that’s been drawn out a lot due to the club’s lack of funds. Inexplicably, they decide to go shopping for a bunch of new diving equipment, spending all the cash they were saving up for the trip. While their reason for being there is dubious, I’m always down for an Eva reference—in this case Chisa and Aina trying on Asuka and Rei wetsuits.

It’s also always nice to see Chisa on cloud nine, geeking out over the various equipment for sale. Oddly, it’s not until they return home to Grand Blue that Nanaka reminds them that…Okinawa is expensive. Did they not know this already?! Apparently not, since not only do Iori and Kouhei have to work overtime directing foot traffic at some kind of event, but Chisa and Aina have to dress in revealing costumes to hand out fliers. Next week: The gang finally arrives in Okinawa.