Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 26 (S2 01) – Sleeping Beauty, Weeping Hero

Allow me to indulge in a brief tangent: I’m playing Final Fantasy VII Remake at a more leisurely pace than most. I knew, as with Re:Zero here, it would be a while before we get the continuation, so I’d best savor what I’ve got, right? Anyway, I had just managed to defeat the much ballyhooed Airbuster boss at the end of Chapter 7, after which with Cloud falls through a church roof and lands on Aerith’s flowerbed.

Coming off such a long mission at the Mako Reactor culminating in a stressful, protracted boss battle, I expected a little respite to catch my breath. No such luck: within minutes Cloud is locked in a very tricky one-on-one fight with Reno. I went at him much the same way I’d fought Airbuster—and had my ass handed to me to the tune of four Game Overs before I got used to his patterns and found his weakness.

The point is, FF7R wasn’t ready to let me rest just yet, or even spend any time celebrating what had felt like a significant victory. It was immediately time to deal with the next crisis It’s the same with Re:Zero’s second season. Turns out watching the director’s cut wasn’t necessary, as the only unique scene it had—Emilia’s infamous “Who’s Rem?”—is the cold open of this first episode.

What we didn’t know is why exactly Lia suddenly forgot Rem. Was there another whale? Did the teleportation back from Isekai Quartet‘s “Chibi High School World” cause the amnesia? Re:Zero 2 wastes no time answering that question: Re:Zero’s Airbuster (the White Whale) may be defeated, but there’s no time to celebrate, because now its Reno is on the scene.

“Reno” in this case refers to not one but two new heretofore unseen Sin Archbishops of the Witch’s Cult: That of Greed, the smug Regulus Corneas, and Gluttony, the manic Lye Batenkaitos. The convoy that includes the wagon carrying Rem and Crusch is suddenly ambushed by the bishops, resulting in a huge amount of carnage.

Lye is a lot like Betel in his goofy over-the-top spiel, but Regulus is the more fearsome one to my eye and ear. He’s so calm, well-spoken, and put together, wasting no movement in his horrifically violent attacks. He looks more like Reinhard or Julius than a Sin Archbishop, which is somehow more unsettling.

When Crusch fights force with force, interrupting Regulus’ monologue, he is insulted by her lack of manners and relieves her of her left arm. After administering first aid, Rem breaks out her flail, but it’s telling that she makes it absolutely clear that she’s not the one they need to worry about, but the man she loves, her hero, The Hero, Natsuki Subaru.

That turns out to be a bad move, as neither archbishop considers Rem to be much of a threat, and as we saw what happened when she fought the Sin Archbishop of Sloth Betelgeuse, this battle was going to end about as well as my first tussle with the slippery Reno in FF7R. Emi’s question to Subaru meant the battle had already been decided, and Rem lost.

As steeled as I was to witness it firsthand, I was still not prepared for the devastating flashes of Rem and Subaru’s future before losing consciousness: sitting on a bench with their newborn second child; their firstborn standing nearby. Welcome Back to Re:Zero, where there is no limit to the amount of times your heart will get stomped on!

Once the convoys arrive at Roswaal’s estate, Subaru is on the edge of panic as he restlessly searches the scores of dead and wounded for Rem. First he spots blue hair, but it’s not her. Finally, he finds her, unconscious. The healer doesn’t know who she is, and can do nothing for her. After lashing out at the man in anger, he quickly descends into crippling despair, grabs the nearest broken sword, points it at his throat, and kills himself.

Of course, Return by Death doesn’t take him back to a point in time before Rem is attacked; only to the back of the wagon with Emilia just before he mentions Rem. He’s too late to stop Rem’s attackers. He’ll have to save her after the fact.

Puck informs him that Gluttony literally devours not just memories, but someone’s very name. This is what was done to Rem, which means the girl lying in bed is an empty shell. She won’t wake up unless her name and memories are restored. I imagine killing Gluttony will do the trick, but who knows?

Meanwhile, everyone else has indeed never heard of Rem, while Crusch, the last person she was with, also had her memories eaten, to the point she doesn’t even know herself. At an impromptu meeting between Subaru, Emilia, Wilheim, Felis, and Crusch, Felis puts Crusch’s welfare first and proposes an end to an alliance with Emilia that no longer serves a benefit, only a burden.

Subaru bristles at that, and at Felis’ misplaced blame and selfish caution. Even though Crusch doesn’t really know who she is, she sides with Subaru, as does Wilheim. Gluttony, Greed, and the Witch’s Cult are threats to all (there are reports of others throughout the land falling victim to Gluttony), and so all of them must stay together to determine the proper path to defeating them.

Moving forward requires that Subaru accept that Rem is out of the picture for now, that there’s nothing he can immediately do about it, and going without sleep to stay by her bedside helps neither of them. Emilia comes to Rem’s room to say as much, and while she has no memories of Rem, she can tell she’s Ram’s sister. She’s also come to tell Subaru that she wants to help Subaru carry the weight of Rem. He saved her, and now it’s her turn to save him.

This causes Subaru to politely ask her to turn away so he can cry, but soon after bawling big sopping sheets tears, she wraps her arms around him in a hug of support. And so we start with the Hero at his lowest point (so far, at least…it can always go lower!), unable even to put on a Tough Guy act, and the Heroine promising to save him, starting with helping him process the situation so that they can begin to find a solution.

It’s a strong return to form for Re:Zero, which at this point is a known quantity in terms of how it operates and to never expect things to work out too soon without significant hardship and suffering on the part characters. Two new sniveling supervillains are here, and their Emilia-lookin’ Witch queen still looms.

Hopefully no one is starting their Re:Zero journey with this episode; that would be…interesting. Suffice it to say, if you enjoyed the first season, the second picks right up where it left off both in story, tone, and style. I’m eager to see and learn more. Thankfully, the wait is over.

 

BokuBen 2 – 12 – The Show Meowst Go On

The Swim Club’s Full Pure show goes off without a hitch, thanks to some unseen technological wizards who managed to build artificial clones of the club members and program them to dance and sing perfectly! Just kidding; it’s only another case of using CGI to animate their dance number.

The moves are fluid, but too precise and perfect, and while stills of the quartet look fine, in action they look too…mechanical. This is not a problem exclusive to BokuBen, but at least in the ED of Cautious Hero the CGI Rista is meant to be a figurine, not the flesh-and-blood character.

I also had a problem with Nariyuki being able to sew the cosplay outfit of an anime character introduced that morning to Uruka’s exact measurements. When the heck did he do that? The suspension of disbelief if our Mary Sue MC is strong with this episode.

It isn’t long until the Thorns have Nariyuki in their clutches, but due to yet another costume mix-up, he ends up emerging from the changing room as “Meowpoleon”, the character Kirisu’s colleagues meant for her to wear (which redeems them somewhat). The Thorn guards miss him, as do his siblings, while the teachers start chasing him around the school.

Nariyuki ends up crossing paths with a rocked-out Asumi, who came to play with her old light music club juniors. Using the school’s network of ducts, she leads Nariyuki to a shortcut to the gym (where he’s to report for the play), then distracts the teachers looking for him with her Top Maid charm.

Nariyuki ends up emerging from the ducts in the catwalks above the stage. Since he’s under the impression he’s not meant to perform in the play, he stands by while the play becomes completely undone by his absence. When a teacher declares that anyone in the crowd could be the prince who will kiss Fumino (assuming the kiss will just be pretend), chaos reigns as the Thorns fight off boys.

In the fracas, the heavy scenery is damaged and starts to fall on Fumino, but Nariyuki-as-Meowpoleon rescues her in the nick of time. Improvising for herself, and possibly aware of who might be behind those dead Hello Kittyish eyes, Fumino plants a kiss, resulting in a very close-quarters indirect kiss with Nariyuki.

I docked points from last week’s BokuBen for all but tabling the harem romance for a rote two-part school festival episode, presumably in order to run out the clock. Aside from the kiss, Uruka getting a costume hand-made by the guy she likes, and some mild flirting from Asumi, the needle doesn’t move for anyone in this episode either.

Then again, it’s probably counterproductive to think Nariyuki was going to settle on any one girl in these last episodes. With one remaining, that seems even more unlikely. After all, why satisfy or anger the fans of a particular girl if you can string everyone along for a third season?

BokuBen 2 – 11 – Festival Follies

Having helped his tutees take steps closer to their respective futures, Nariyuki starts thinking about his own future path. Then the cultural festival arrives, and all he can do is scramble to help everyone out in the present.

After a couple episodes focusing on individual love interests, this is a true ensemble affair. First, due to Rizu’s father making 1,000 bowls of udon (instead of 100; he read the order wrong), she needs help selling, so Nariyuki volunteers.

Little does he know that Fumino’s class plotted to make her the star in their Sleeping Beauty play, with Nariyuki as the Prince who will wake her up with a kiss. The class is utterly united in this decision, which if implemented will surely undermine the work Fumino had been doing to avoid getting entangled in the Rizu-Nariyuki-Uruka triangle. Unfortunately, that ship has long since sailed – and she’s in it.

Nariyuki’s third entanglement is helping Uruka locate her missing costume for her swim club’s live idol show, which just happened to be the same costume Kirisu-sensei’s male peers decided to provide for her public class lecture. Aside from those guys continuing to be straight-up creeps, Kirisu ends up unable to remove the costume without destroying it, so she takes Uruka’s place on the stage.

As all this was going on, part of me wondered how can Nariyuki actually do all of this at once? Surely, helping Rizu try to sell 1,000 bowls of udon precludes his participation in the Sleeping Beauty play, and that Rizu herself can’t afford to take a break for the idol show, right? It’s as if the episode jacked the difficulty level up to 10 in the beginning, but ratcheted it down to 4-5 by the end.

This is a two-part festival episode, which means we’ll find out about the play, and who ends up in physical contact with Nariyuki when the first firework goes off during the end celebrations. Uruka really wants to be that person, but Sawako is plotting to make it Rizu. Meanwhile, the previews promise Asumi will be joining the fray. In any case, it’ll be another busy episode for Nariyuki. With only two remaining (this season anyway), IF he’s going to choose someone, he’s running out of time.

Hundred – 08

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The bad news: this wasn’t a particularly mockable episode of Hundred. Why? That’s the good news: it wasn’t really that bad, as far as episodes of Hundred go. The ‘fight monsters, then fight over Hayate’ formula has been spiced up nicely by Claudia, voiced by the talented Akasaki Chinatsu, who exhibits her usual tremendous range and energy.

I’ve loved Akasaki’s work ever since Kill Me Baby! and seeing her give Emile a taste of her own medicine is never not fun. Claudia’s also a pretty capable Slayer, so it’s not like it doesn’t make sense to have her around.

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Naturally, Claudia works to separate Hayato and Emile at every turn, an urge she shares with Claire, not least because both know she’s really a girl. Claudia wants Emilia and Claire wants Hayato, but there’s no real alliance between them, which is why Claire puts both Hayato and Claudia on her team while her veep Erica is paired with Emile.

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Even though the Hunters are lurking around hoping to poach savage and slayer alike, Claudia kinda drops the ball by leaving Claire and Hayato alone so she can run back to Emile. Not only is her lie about the two “going on date” inaccurate, it’s also unsuccessful, as Emile isn’t one to simply tuck tail and return to her homeland just because Claire won Round One. By that same token, Claudia isn’t about to give up on Emilia.

As for Claire and Hayato, the former slipping on some mud is enough of a reason to go skinny dipping in a hot spring. She slips again while getting out, landing naked on Hayato, but in between the moments of silliness they have a fine little chat about how both of them are fighting primarily for family, not just out of duty and honor—and how there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Speaking of honor, it doesn’t seem like the Hunters have much, as they start ambushing and scavenging the various slayer teams dispersed throughout the area. Claire mobilizes in her full armor to put a stop to it, but an earlier mention of heavy rain affecting beam weaponry gains significance when the heavens open up just when she’s about to dole out some beamy justice. Looks like a job for Hayato.

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Hundred – 07

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The Quest to Kill Karen continues: she survived a rowdy idol concert, so lets put her out in the blazing sun! Seriously, if she can endure this many trips outside her hospital room, why is she confined to that hospital room?

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For THAT. She’s got them hanging out for that. Gotta cushion Hayato’s clumsy falls, right?

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Oh, great, here we go: Bishounen Bad Guy #4,678,594. Claire’s older brother Judar. I’m sure he’s not up to no good, no sir!

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“Mmmm…but not you, Karen. Sorry.”

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Boobs? It’s boobs, right? Gotta be boobs.

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WHOA…Judar went and splurged on the most expensive lamp at IKEA Little Garden! Wait a minute…there’s a girl in there! Judging from all the white mist around her body, she’s nude, too! She’s your and Claire’s sister Liza, you say? Why’s your sister nude in there?

Never mind; Judar wants to see if Hayato’s Super-Awesome Energy can wake her up, even though she powers the entire city-ship? Uh, buddy, you got backup generators, or am I missing something?

Claire pulls a gun on her brother when she finds him down there with Hayato. How’d she catch up to them so fast, when it took the two of them so long to descend and get through all those security doors? Is Judar just messing with Hayato, and there’s a screen door that leads straight to the top deck?

Never mind again; I’d probably pull a gun on him too. Dude’s totally evil.

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Some people immediately took a hatred to Emilia’s highly-caffinated childhood friend Claudia Loetty and wanted to lower her into a volcano mere seconds after meeting her. Wouldn’t you know it, I was not one of those people!

I dunno…I kinda love her. Her voice actor (I wanna say Akasaki Chinatsu, but not sure) has stellar range and timing, and Claudia is pretty much the manifestation of all the built-up misfortune Hayato has been collecting while taking all of those lucky ass-backward trips into lady’s hearts, crotches, boobs, and mouths.

Sure, at some point Claudia may also come to fall for Hayato, but that seems a pretty long way off. And any cute girl who doesn’t love Hayato and is actively trying to make his life harder is alright with me. Hayato needs more people like this in his life, lest he take what he has (everything) for granted.

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You see? There is nothing inaccurate about this statement. This girl speaks the truth. She is after my heart. Take it to him, sister!

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Yes, because she’s desperately in love with Emilia (who turns out to be a princess back home in Gudenburg, dontchaknow!), Claudia has zero patience for those who’d seduce her  (hence her hissing and spitting upon meeting Hayato). She also challenges Hayato to a duel in a dojo, her with her flail/mace thingy, and he with his shinai.

It doesn’t seem like a fair fight, until Hayato easily defeats her in the most hilarious way possible. She then tries to bargain for a rematch, but is refused and runs off crying. Yes, Claudia is very very annoying, but I’m very glad she’s around. She made this normally bland, stolid love-fest genuinely interesting and funny for once!

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Love Stage!! – 07

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The opening romance is cut short by Ryouma, who’s furious with despondent Izumi and storms out. Izumi goes back to sleep and dreams of Lala-lulu’s world.

There, he’s about to join Evil Lala-lulu’s side — he even gives the good guy gone bad speech — but is saved at the last moment by Good Lala-lulu.

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Izumi wakes and reads hundreds of missed calls and texts from Rei. Izumi realizes Rei really cares about him, and that he’s always known this but been too stupid to admit it.

Ryouma returns with a surprise: he had Izumi’s manga reviewed by no one other than Lala-lulu’s creator (and Izumi’s idol)! Izumi’s mind is blown, both by Ryouma’s ability to get such a thing and by the kind words from Lala’s creator, which amount to “you suck now but have passion — keep that passion and gain experience.”

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Izumi comes to terms with tackling life’s challenges and resolves to go back home and enter show biz.

Rei is happy to see him and collapses in exhaustion (having been awake for 60 hours straight) and all is well.

Izumi tells Ryouma that he’s like a brother to him and Ryouma kisses him good night. “take a good look. i’m not your older brother” (end episode)

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“Dreams and Hope are nothing but Illusions” – Evil’zumi

And with that, Love Stage!! slams the ball out of the park. I can not stress how well this episode works as a closer for the series. The actors are all clearly introduced and their roles have a natural direction to follow — and if you omit the rapey-part of episode 3, all the relationships make plenty of sense.

Yes! the show will continue on to a happier ending a few episodes down the line but, for me, I’m taking this as a great stopping point. Everyone is happy. Everyone is hopeful and there’s nothing to look forward to but some serious BL from here on out.

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“Dont you dare mock my feels for you” – Ryouma

Was Love Stage!! worth a watch? Yes! I’m glad i took a chance on it. (at least for this long) However, so many elements of the show either don’t work due to my own gender biases OR don’t work because of the show’s.

Seriously! There’s no way Izumi’s mom would be considered funny for not caring where he is if he were female. (and recently raped and missing for 60 hours) No more than any of the weird yuk-yuk jokes make by Rei over the rape itself. The results just come off creepy and are so consistent that I don’t feel the studio would agree.

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Still, at the end of the day, Love Stage!! delivered a decent drama — and one in a genre I would not usually have watched. It held my attention with decently above average annimation, solid voice work and a deeply desturbing early season twist. For that, all I can say is Thumbs up!

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Love Stage!! – 06

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Ryouma is finally confronted by his Agency about his relationship with Izumi. Except, everyone assumes Izumi is female. 

Rei takes this opportunity to launch Izumi’s show bix career. Except they have an angry fight because Izumi wants to become a manga artist.

A deal is struck: If Izumi’s submission is accepted in the manga contest, Rei will support him and, if not, Izumi will dive into show biz without hesitation. (end act 1)

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Izumi’s work is rejected. Izumi is rejected. Izumi stumbles through the rain to Ryouma, the only person he feels cares about him.

Izumi spends the night, barely unmolested, only to end up there early the next morning. Cliffhanger sexy time! (end episode)

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“Mister President, Please dont stand on your desk.” – unnamed assistant.

Love Stage’s sixth outing was not exactly the height of drama, but it kept itself sincere (mostly) and had several good lines of dialog. That said, its sincerity was all over the place in tone and I found it a little jarring to bounce from Izumi’s teen-angst life drama to Ryouma’s sex-angst drama. Sure, LS went out of its way to establish a reason for these two characters to have a post rape connection — even a reliance on each other — but the script can’t escape how different the two characters’ stories are in tone.

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Oh! Haha! Rei wasn’t worried about Izumi getting raped. Je was worried Ryouma would see Izumi’s manga. Good joke!

Addressing the juxtaposition of those scripts appears to be a frequent stumbling point. In fact, I’d argue most of the awkward/horrifying humor (see above) stems from the script’s attempt to blend a happy go luck ‘loser comedy’ with the hard edge of sex drama and social messaging. Why else would it present a mega nose-bleed scene for Ryouma as he oggle’s Izumi’s sleeping body? Why else would he fantasize about Izumi not wearing ‘panties’?

Even when the humor works, it feels out of place. Especially from the Lala-lulu break out segments, where Izumi fantasizes about his favorite Anime character roughly contextualizing an aspect of his own narrative. Lala pokes decent, if not cheap fun at the magic girl genre and she works — but only for “Izumi’s Show.”

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“I know I have rational thought in me, somewhere…” – Ryouma.

You’re probably wondering why, despite my criticisms, episode six is rated 8 this week? Well… it all comes down to the closing scene:

Ryouma and Izumi have a lovely morning but Ryouma wants Izumi to do the right thing and call home. Izumi, still being childish and upset, flippantly says he wants to stay with Ryouma forever instead and hides under the covers. Ryouma, calmly but forcefully rips off the covers, mounts a now startled Izumi and asks him if he’s forgotten who he’s talking to. Izumi turns away and says:

“Just do it. I don’t care anymore.”

Then we get a sailor moon style sex scene and the episode is over…

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This reminder that Ryouma is a rapist and that Izumi has been playing with napalm is the thread seriously missing from the past 2 episodes. Maybe it needed to be missing to make this scene as strong as it was. Regardless, and regardless of how you feel about the subject matter, the scene was powerful, thought provoking and well delivered.

Is Izumi now onboard with BL? (at least in a completely apathetic way) Will Rei and Izumi’s family handle the fall out? Where will next week take us?

Have to wait and see!

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Love Stage!! – 05

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Texting, Texting, Texting, Messages, Messages and Messages, Everybody has something to say to each other, especially when they aren’t in the same room. Also bad manga…

This week starts off with another Izumi daydream of achieving success as a manga artist and this time it’s actually pretty funny: Izumi’s imagined ‘break out comic’ is presented as it is in the real world—hilariously crude and nigh incoherent.

Meanwhile, Ryouma has transitioned into full-on-fem style over-bearing girlfriend and texts Izumi constantly. (He sent 27 while Izumi slept in class) Why doesn’t Izumi block the number, you ask? Well…he tried, and Ryouma convinced everyone he needed to be on suicide watch.

Nice.

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Moving along, Ryouma drops by Izumi’s college for a visit and invades the manga club. What follows is a mostly innocuous string of nerds talking about nerdy things that Ryouma ignores, marked by moments of Ryouma flattering Izumi’s (lack of) talent like a doting girlfriend.

It’s an interesting role reversal, in a way, since Ryouma filled the raging masculine bull/rapist role only 2 weeks previous. Now it’s Izumi’s turn to keep Ryouma in line and make sure the day runs smoothly.

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Izumi’s manga is awesome and I don’t understand the kind of person who wouldn’t enjoy reading it! No Seriously! Someone has to print this!

Partly due to Ryouma’s flattery and partly due to a looming deadline, Izumi makes a crazy decision to invite Ryouma over to help ink. Thankfully, the scene is tame and Ryouma turns out to be a good helper. He’s arguably a better artist than Izumi and helps draw a solid background.

They finish the work in record time and Izumi falls asleep. Then Ryouma kisses him in his sleep, which is a mellow return to rape-town, but, now that Ryouma’s in the fem role, it’s not quite as horrible. Still creepy though.

Then Ryouma gets a call from his manager before he can land a second kiss. He’s in trouble for the voyeur’s photos we assumed were taken last week. Before he goes, he lands some more Sleeping Beauty kisses…maybe more than a few.

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Love Stage!! got its pacing right, at least during the opening this week. It was charming and a lot of it unfolds in bursts as Izumi reads on his phone. Rather good comedic timing, really.

However, by the time we get to the manga club…meh? Ryouma and Izumi’s love story just feels mushy, if not unterrible as romance slice-of-lifes go. The manga-drawing-marathon session offered a little reprieve and the opportunity for Ryouma to find a non-physical attribute to like about Izumi was needed but…still meh?

Truth be told, I’m running out of steam for Love Stage!!—and it’s worth noting that I’d be just as low on juice if this were a hetero-romance show. In some ways, I see why the rape mayhem was needed two weeks ago. Without that, sincere or not, I’m not sure LS has much to get all that excited about. Not for 13 episodes, at least…

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Nagi no Asukara – 20

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As the days went on and Manaka simply wouldn’t wake up, it was interesting how remarkably calm and upbeat Hikari remained. Perhaps it was because he really was optimistic Manaka would wake up any minute, and if she didn’t, that catching Lord Uroko and making him wake her up would be a piece of cake.

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But it doesn’t take long for Hikari to become a man obsessed, repeating patterns from early last season when he was a fiery ball of bad-tempered energy fueled by many factors, including his feelings for Manaka and the future of their village. Even as the sea grows colder and he grows more exhausted, he can’t just sit still; he suddenly can’t soldier on with normal life until she’s awake.

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In other words, things pretty much the same as they was when Miuna and Tsumugu first found the awakened Hikari, only amplified: before, he thought of little else but finding Manaka, and now that they’ve found her, now he thinks of little else than waking her up. In the midst of this wild intensity, Miuna no doubt feels more left out than ever. Manaka is the Sleeping Beauty that has invaded her home and monopolizes the thoughts and time of the boy she loves.

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It’s a very cruel situation for Miuna, in my opinion, and I can’t hold it against her if she happens to voice her frustration in a moment of weakness. She starts to wonder if a part of her doesn’t want Manaka to wake up. But her desperation for Hikari’s attention is butting up against his desperation to wake Manaka, and something has to give. It does, when after mistaking Miuna for Manaka (with her hair down, a rare sight), Hikari collapses into a feverish heap.

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Miuna learns again that she’s not alone; Tsumugu is having similar complications in his relationship with Chisaki, and the two have a very interesting little chat on a pier. Tsumugu admits he too pondered a simpler world without anyone ever waking up, but he can’t deny he was and continues to be happy they’re back too. Miunta wants to be happy too; Tsumugu says it will happen, but it’ll take time.

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He’s not suggesting she surrender, but it is important not to get sucked into a vortex of despair from persistent lack of success. Life is too precious to waste inordinate amounts of time on self-pity and navel-gazing. In life, circumstances and fortunes can change in an instant. To whit: Manaka quite suddenly waking up, not because Hikari kissed her, but to scold him for yelling at Miuna for suggesting he kiss her.

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