More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 08 – Lost in the forest of decision

This week was difficult at times, but also necessary in a satisfying way. We start with Shiori, Mei, Jirou, and Akari all alone, wondering how long things will stay “this way”, in a state of confusion, frustration, and longing. Not forever, surely!

Even Jirou’s video game is asking him to make a choice between two princesses, warning him the wrong one would “destroy the kingdom”. That’s not far off! Suffice it to say, the current state of things is becoming untenable for everyone.

When the new monthly rankings come out, Jirou and Akari only make it to thirteenth place, which means they still lack the mechanism to enact a decision regarding whom they wish to truly be with. Even so, the marriage practical is a false obstacle. They really don’t need to make it to the Top 10 to sort this out!

In the meantime, Jirou and Akari’s marriage continues apace. Akari’s arachnophobia supplants any modesty about running in on Jirou when he’s nakked in the bath, and in her state of fear and vulnerability she’s never squeezed him tighter. Since the 2mm spider has disappeared, Akari insists on Jirou staying by her side all day, even as she does her nails.

Jirou can shrug off all this sudden intimacy with Akari as a product of her fear of spiders and need for someone by her side to protect her, not necessarily a romantic partner. Since they’re still playing the marriage game to make the Top 10 and swap for their crushes, he remains convinced Akari isn’t interested in him in any other way.

Of course, she is, and she wouldn’t bring up “what ifs” like asking what would’ve happened if they’d met outside the bounds of the compulsory marriage practical. Nor would she ask if they should try dating, like the fifth-ranked couple apparently has started to do. She only says “just kidding” because the silence grows too long, while Jirou wonders why he thought seriously about it for a second. Dude, because she was serious.

This is not the first, nor will it be the last time Akari says something straight-up only to amend it or dismiss it as messing around. The beautifully staged and lit overhead shot of the two alone in their bed that night says still more than her overt words. That thick, dark wall is doing a lot of work, visually and thematically.

Over at Casa de Sakurazawa-Tenjin, Minami can tell something’s troubling Shiori and offers to help, even if he’s not confident he’ll be able to. Shiori confides in him her “friend’s” situation, in which she’s kissed the person they like and now can’t think of anything else. Minami picks up pretty easily that Shiori is talking about herself, but steadfastly doesn’t break the charade.

We finally learn something interesting about Minami in that he apparently missed his chance to confess to the person he loved, and urges Shiori’s “friend” to have confidence and keep trying if there’s a possibility it will work out. We knew that he and Shiori had nothing going on romantically, but this proves it. Also, pretty rich telling her to be confident when he apparently has so little of his own!

As for the true third vertex in the Shiori-Jirou love triangle, Hamano Mei and Shiori have a deeply romantic little scene in the classroom after school, even if Shiori isn’t at all aware of  how her compliments truly affect Mei. Even Mei’s husband Shuu is aware of how much she loves Shiori, and arranges to go out with Minami on a karaoke all-nighter so the two girls can have a sleepover.

Shuu learns another nugget about Minami when he hangs out with him and their café boss that night: Minami has an older brother, and their boss says since it’s a family of “ikemen” even siblings are rivals. Sounds like his bro might’ve stolen his true love? As for the boss, he’s Sadaharu’s older brother.

When Shiori and Mei are planning sleeping arrangements, talk turns to looking at old photos. Mei looks forward to seeing lil’ Shiori … right up until Shiori bashfully says most of the photos contain Jirou as well. Mei checks her phone and heads off on a family errand, abandoning the sleepover plan because she knows who Shiori really loves.

Sadaharu ends up at a restaurant with Jirou, and despite not drinking like his big bro, comes up with the hair-brained idea that he needs to bring his new accidentally lecherous friend back down to his level … by kissing him. While he’s leaning in for that smooch, Shiori, now alone, just happens to pass by, and seemingly gets a look at them, and walks off with no reaction.

Jirou chases after her to explain things, but as she didn’t actually see him and Sadaharu, she assumes he’s talking about their accidental kiss. She was looking at the restaurant sign that contained the symbol for “kiss”. When they thankfully clear up this misunderstanding, they each take one of the handles of the bag and walk together.

When conversation turns back to their kiss, Shiori insists that Jirou hear her out. He doesn’t have to apologize for the kiss, because she asked him to kiss her for practice, and she admits she learned a lot, so she earnestly thanks him. Jirou is confused, since he still thinks she wants to be “friends (and only friends) forever”, but he can’t deny that she sets up another potential kiss for them right then and there.

Sadly, when two cats interrupt their moment Shiori quickly shifts to small talk, but hey, at least these two are talking again, and Jirou understands that Shiori doesn’t feel bad about their kiss.

Jirou’s video game princess warned that the kingdom will be destroyed if he makes the wrong choice. The “kingdom” in this case could be his friendship with Shiori, whether they take it to the next level or if he chooses Akari. The same scenarios apply to Mei: confessing to Shiori means possibly abandoning regular friendship in the future.

In either case, the old has to be torn down before something new can be built in its place. The fear and hesitance of doing so is all too understandable and relatable—as is the result of not making choices: the aforementioned increasingly untenable purgatory. Something’s gotta give, and hopefully something will!

I’ve watched many a frustrating-as-hell rom-rom in which characters didn’t make what I felt to be the obvious, easy choice. This show is doing a great job really putting us in each character’s shoes and explaining why they’re having so much difficulty, and making clear that there are no easy choices.

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E04 – The Traveler King

With Gabriel promising to return tomorrow, Maou and his generals and frenemies adopt a fortress mentality, sending the normal human Chiho off while Ashiya and Urushihara stay on stanby at Suzuno’s. That leaves Maou and Emi together with Alas Ramus at his place.

While Emi is weary of this arrangement, and can’t commit to allying herself with the devil, she will do what it takes to keep Alas out of harm’s way, so in that regard her and Maou’s interests are aligned. When they turn in for the night, Alas makes sure to grab both of them close.

While initially uncomfortable with the proximity, Maou and Emi bask in their “daughter’s” unbridled love and exuberance, while Emi is genuinely moved by Maou’s bittersweet improvised tale of a traveler who became a king.

Emi gets a literal rude awakening around 5:00 in the morning from Gabriel, who was simply lying in the room waiting for them to wake up (ambushing a sleeping couple is beneath him). Gabriel continues to be a paragon of reasonableness, but makes it quite clear: he’s leaving with either Emi’s sword or Alas Ramus.

We learned from further explanation form Suzuno earlier that as the Guardian Angel of the sephira Yesod of the Tree of Life, Gabriel has a claim to both sword and Alas, as they are shards of Yesod. But that doesn’t matter to Maou, who planted and nurtured the seed that became the apple that became his near-as-makes-no-difference daughter.

When saved from death and reborn (you can see himself in his bedtime story), Alas was a symbol of hope he gained, so Maou offers his head in exchange for letting Alas at least stay with Emi.  Gabriel laughs at Maou and Emi in marital synch one minute, and is choking out Maou the next. He’s out of patience.

But while Emi’s sword can’t do much against Gabriel, and Maou is far to weak to stand against him, Alas is more than up to the task. All it takes is hurting her Papa to send her glowing with rage and blasting out the side of the wall, taking ol’ Gabe for a violent aerial tour of the city at near-dawn.

Emi gives chase, and when she gets her sword shattered by Gabriel, Alas backs her up—as long as Emi tells her she and Papa will be together with her forever. After Urushihara cows Gabe’s Angel guards with the sheer power of his former archangel status, Suzuno takes Maou on a ride to where Emi and Alas are an unceremoniously lobs him at Gabriel.

While grabbing and restraining Gabe, Maou tells Emi to hurry up and kill the two of them, something Emi isn’t going to do even without Alas being right there watching. So Gabe shakes free, leaving Maou to fall. No one can get to him to stop his fall…except for Alas.

Emi then whips out a fresh sword and her armor (complete with a partial maho onna-kishi transformation sequence) to warn Gabriel to get lost, even managing to slice his cheek and make him bleed. But before he goes, he makes it a point to admonish Emi and tell her to reflect on “what sort of being she is”.

Emi returns to earth exhausted but none the worse for wear, but the damage is done: Alas is gone. After saving Maou, she said she wanted to be with them forever she’d have to say goodbye “for now”. Maou is devastated, but as Chiho learns while having coffee with Emi, by “for now” Alas meant only for a short while, as she has now fused with Emi’s sacred sword (now a dagger).

Emi presents Chiho with her very unique predicament of wanting to defeat the Devil King someday, but not being able to do it with a weapon that’s also his child! Emi’s fine with that; she’d rather Maou and Emi simply continue to get along, even if watching them grow kinda-sorta closer thanks to Alas leaves her out in the cold romance-wise.

Alas also insists Emi not let Papa suffer longer than he needs to, and has them reunited that evening. To Emi’s surprise, seeing Alas again actually brings tears to Maou’s eyes; Chi-sis explains to Alas that people also cry when they’re happy.

We find out that Gabe told Emi he hoped she’d prioritize the world’s safety, and then learn that Lailah, Emi’s mother, was the one stole Yesod in the first place. Could Emi’s mom be the woman who saved Maou’s life? There’s a lot of intrigue (and potential dread) on the horizon, but Alas wielding her innate power has at least bought this little pop-up family a little more time to be happy.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 05 – The Moon Is Beautiful

One night, before they started going out, Mizuto and Yume were in adjacent rooms on a middle school class trip. When they both looked out their windows at the full moon, Mizuto said Tsuki ga kirei desu ne, which means “The moon is beautiful, isn’t it?” but can also be an artful way of saying “I love you”. It’s a night Mizuto still hasn’t forgotten…even though it must’ve been more than what, two years ago?!

Fast-forward to the present, and Mizuto is being a big ‘ol jerk about not wanting to go shopping with Yume for Mother’s Day, even though they had plenty of fun on their date the other day. Yume convinces him to come with a fetching ” ooting” outfit, and when they’re on a crowded train and a bump causes Mizuto to pin her between the side of the car and him, she tells him not to pull away, as it will only keep happening with every bump.

The two settle on a bouquet of carnations, which is a pretty standard go-to Mother’s Day gift. But their mom is so happy to receive them that she runs away in tears. As we know, these are good kids, and making their mom/stepmom happy makes them happy. Mizuto may put out Ayanokouji vibes, but he’s nothing like that sociopath!

That evening, Yume notices the door at the end of the hall is open a crack – a beam of the setting sun gleams through, lighting motes of dust in the air. She finds Mizuto inside, praying to his mother’s shrine. Mizuto’s mom died when he was very small, such that her shrine photo is is only visual link to her.

Not only aware this is no time for sniping but genuinely wanting to support Mizuto during a lonely moment, she cuddles up next to him, like a “big sister” should. That’s when Mizuto says that since their parents are newlyweds, they should give them a night alone sometime. That of course means the two of them would have to spend the night…somewhere else.

Yume turns all sorts of shades of pink and red as Mizuto runs by what’s possible and not possible, even admitting to looking into love hotel rates. But since they both know that might just be taking things a bit far considering their history, Mizuto instead asks Kawanami if he can spend the night at his place.

Yume, in turn, can stay at Minami’s…because Minami and Kawanami are not only childhood friends as we all suspected, but also next-door neighbors. Due to that prodigious amount of time so close to one another, they’re basically more siblings than Yume and Mizuto.

Kawanami has a little fun with the paper-thin walls by acting like Mizuto is talking about Yume’s boobs (causing her to attack the wall), while Mizuto gets payback by reading Kawanami’s elementary school report on wanting to be a police officer so he can marry Minami (causing her to attack the wall).

Kawanami and Minami’s easy, lived-in rapport carries over when they both independently pick the same family restaurant to take Mizuto and Yume to dinner. Kawanami and Minami each know exactly what the other is going to order, while the two even have a shared laugh at the stebsiblings’ expense when they both show they have no idea about soda fountain protocol.

After dinner, Minami gets all cuddly with Mizuto about tutoring her in Japanese, but Mizuto shuts her down by declaring that Yume is the far more appropriate choice for a tutor since she “works so hard” for her grades while he puts in very little effort.

Later that night, Kawanami is bored that Mizuto is just studying, so he texts Minami, which again seems like a common occurrence. They may say they have nothing to do with each other, but they’re fooling absolutely no one—including themselves.

Kawanami and Miniami are so in sync they even fall asleep at the same time, while Mizuto and Yume go out on their respective balconies to admire a full moon. When Mizuto hears Yume on the other side he peeks over to find her in cute frog jammies Minami “made” her wear.

Then Yume says “Tsuki ga kirei desu ne”, confirming she too remembers that night of the school trip when he dropped that “pretentious come-on”.  That said, she basically admits that was when she started liking him. Mizuto says there’s no point in telling him that now, but it’s clear he was happy she remembered that night as vividly as he did.

They both ponder whether all the time Kawanami and Minami have spent together “means” anything, being so close together for so long. As for the two of them, Mizuto believes it isn’t likely their folks will split up, so they’re “stuck as stepsiblings until the end of time.” While he tries to make that sound like the same “hell” Kawanami claims living beside Minami to be, both of them are vastly overstating their torment.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Call of the Night – 01 (First Impressions) – Carpe Noctem

Now that’s what I’m freakin’ talkin’ about! Call of the Night is a pitch-perfect vampire rom-com from start to finish with a keen understanding of how to set tone and atmosphere, and the entire episode takes place over a single night—one of my favorite settings, being a night owl myself.

The infrequent scenes from Yamori Kou’s ordinary middle school life are shot relatively normally, but the light (and indeed, normalness) of those scenes feels oppressive, while the sprawling, shimmering night feels like a release. Kou doesn’t get things like “crushes” and “confessions”, but this place? This time? He gets it.

Surfing the web for remedies to his insomnia, many bring up booze as a surefire way to eventually lose consciousness, so he walks up to a very brightly-lit beer vending machine, and just as he’s making his selection, a sinister figure wreathed in shadow sidles up to him, questioning his legal age to purchase alcohol.

But the girl is only playing around; she has no intention of snitching. Indeed, she tags along with Kou as his night continues, passing by three older dudes who took the advice of the internet and got rek’d. Kou is awed by how she can so casually high-five strangers, but that’s what the night is all about: it’s a time of freedom; of casting off inhibitions and living.

When Kou is starting to feel a little tired, the quirky lilac-haired girl invites him up to her place, a sparse studio with a futon on the floor. The girl disrobes—as in, removes her robe, not all her clothes—but reveals, well, a revealing crop top, which catches the romance-averse Kou off-guard and makes him wonder what this girl’s intentions are.

She tells him: there’s nothing in the world wrong with two people simply sleeping in the same bed together. Even though the weird girl remains very much awake and basically stares at him the whole time, Kou can’t help but feel far more relaxed with her beside him than no one at all.

Kou is also good at pretending to be asleep; so good that the girl assumes he is, the light suddenly changes from deep purplish blue to warmer fuchsia, she bares her fangs and sinks them into Kou’s neck. For those not paying attention, yes: this chick is a vampire.

If a series is going to spend so much time at night, it had better know what to do with light, shadow, and color, and boy does Call of the Night ever know. Some scenes even reminded me of Fantasia. When Kou wakes up with blood on his neck, her fib about a giant mosquito doesn’t hold water (or blood).

That said, he keeps his head as the girl causally admits what she is, though he wonders why he hasn’t become a vampire. Here’s where the two find they share something in common, besides a love of the night: while some vampires go around making a whole mess of offspring, she’d…rather not. Just like Kou would rather not participate in all the junior high drama.

Perhaps it’s because she feels as comfortable around him as he does around her, the girl lets slip a truth about vampires: one way to become one is to have your blood sucked by a vampire you’re in love with. One thing I love about this girl is that she can get just as frazzled talking about this stuff as Kou.

She redirects the conversation to ask him how his first night “taking a step outside the norm” felt, out here in the place furthest he can hope to get from the things he thinks are a pain. He asks her formally to let him fall in love with her, but she promises nothing. She’ll just keep sucking his blood; if he wants to fall for her, he can go right ahead.

Now that they’re in agreement, they exchange names—her’s is Nanakusa Nazuna—and she resolves to “infuse more night” into him and his blood, which she maintains tastes best at night, just before going to bed. To that end, Nazuna kicks him off the roof of her high-rise apartment building…only to catch him in the blink of an eye long before he hits the pavement.

Thence, Nazuna princess carries Kou on aerial tour of the late night cityscape, flipping him upside down for an even more unique perspective. As he simply sits there in her arms in quiet but intense awe at what’s happening, Nazuna seems to take a great deal of pleasure from it as well.

And that’s the key to this: for as traditionally horny as vampires are depicted and as revealing as Nazuna’s garb is, this is a surprisingly sweet and innocent love story in the works. It’s about two outsiders in their happy place, staying up late and embracing the freedom of the night. With this banger of a premiere, the summer season has finally kicked off in earnest!

Love After World Domination – 11 – Gekko Babies

Such is Desumi’s gregariousness and kindness, when she sees a fellow princess eating lunch alone, she can’t help but want to reach out to her, even if said princess, Judgment AKA Ranran, has been trained to avoid interpersonal contact.

Desumi says screw that, she wants a new friend, and so invites all the princesses over for a “strategy meeting”, AKA girls’ sleepover. Ranran arrives in the guise of Red Gelato, which briefly throws Desumi off, but she knew it wasn’t her Fudou due to the way she arranged his boots in the entryway and the fact his muscles were a little off.

The assembled princesses (Desumi, Kiki, Kyouko, Anna, and Ranran) proceed to have a grand old time, making takoyaki and briefly discussing romance (Ranran almost corners Desumi on who she likes). Desumi is so goshdarn sweet she even knits scarves for her fellow princesses as a gesture of friendship.

Later that night when everyone else is asleep, Ranran starts to slip out, but Desumi is right behind her, not to keep her there but to thank her for coming, wish her a good night, and tell her she’s welcome to come again anytime. Despite having gone into the sleepover fully prepared to reject any attempts at getting closer, Ranran clearly had fun, and in Fudou guise once more, says she’ll be back.

When Culverin Bear arranges a battle against Gelato 5 but neither side can move in the waist-deep snow, Desumi and Fudou have coffee in a cozy snow hut, and Fudou tells her about a signing for his new book…about the strongest insect if it was giant (an 8-year-old boy’s idea of a perfect book). Alas, the next day due to their snowy rendezvous, Desumi comes down with a bad fever.

Her classmates escort her to the nurse’s office, where it’s been established that Blood Princess is the nurse. Unfortunately for Desumi (and Kiki before her), Blood’s maternal instincts kick into high gear and she ends up treating her patients like babies, to the point they start to feel and act like babies. When Kiki and Kyouko try to rescue Desumi, they only end up in Blood’s subterranean baby dungeon.

I’m not one to kinkshame, and baby play is most definitely a kink, but the lack of patient consent makes it more uncomfortable (then again, Blood Princess is technically a villain). Worried about Desumi not showing, Fudou infiltrates her school and finds her in a pink onesie, where she’s not quite out of her baby reverie and wants more storytime.

However, Desumi does eventually snap out of it, cover herself up, then celebrates the fact she was able to get Fudou’s first book autograph…since absolutely no one showed up to his signing. I kinda have to call foul on that as he must have a strong fan following. As for Kiki and Kyouko, well … they suffer a fate that to some might be considered worse than death, but there’s no doubt they’ll sleep tonight!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 04 – The Eyes that Propelled Him

YUU CAN’T DIE

No sooner is Yuu shooting death lasers at Kashiwagi and her bae once they leave the office and talking about how students should be focused on their studies (stated while playing video games) than he’s melting into a puddle of goo when his crush, third-year Koyasu Tsubame stops by to drop off some foreshadowing…er, an application for the upcoming cultural festival.

I’m pleased as punch Tsubame is back, she and Yuu had great chemistry, and it was only near the end of that momentous sports fest arc that we even saw her eyes. But is Yuu simply infatuated with her because she’s nice to him, or does he have an actual chance? Ever the pessimist, he’s certain it’s the latter.

Kaguya won’t suffer Yuu’s moping about what can and can’t be done; she’s been in a slog of a romantic stalemate with her crush for over two damn cours, it’s as much sage advice as a warning that it’s best to come out and confess sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, Yuu’s “innate creepiness” has him imagining a flower-a-day at Tsubame’s desk or an album of himself with a note are good ways to do it.

Kaguya, as inept as she’d been with her own romance, continues to prove her value as an advisor to Yuu, steering him away from certain disaster and putting him on a long but doable path to not only making his feelings known to Tsubame, but realizing his potential to be someone Tsubame likes.

Since Yuu is neither strong, rich, or popular, Kaguya sends him on the path of academic achievement, assisting him in studying for the lofty goal of scoring in the top 50 of his grade in the upcoming exams. The next segment is tied to the first, as each of the other four StuCo members agree with Miyuki’s suggestion that they go on hiatus so that everyone can study from home.

Everyone is hiding ulterior motives (and A-1 faces): Miyuki can’t study in the office because he’s too distracted by Kaguya’s beauty; Kaguya can’t study at home because she’s too distracted by her new smartphone; Iino, like Miyuki, wants to keep her #1 ranking, and Chika…Chika already gets double allowance so she stands to lose the least here.

As for Yuu? No lies and no face; he’s already hard at work studying at home. But when the exams come and go and the rankings are posted, he doesn’t make it to the Top 50. Kaguya suspects he rose about 20 spots from his  previous position near the bottom of his class. A tremendous improvement, but also a crushing defeat too.

Yuu pretends he’s not bitter about it to Kaguya and shuffles off to the boy’s room to stew in abject bitterness. Fortunately, Kaguya didn’t buy his act, and brazenly violates the bathroom rule to confirm that, indeed, Yuu is super pissed-off, and that he’ll take this small step forward as merely the loss of a battle for which expectations were naturally high. If love is war, losing this first battle can, and must, motivate him to keep fighting on.

Super Butler Herthaka-kun

With the show showering so much darma and character love on Yuu, who now has two potential love interests (like Miyuki with Kaguya and Ai), Chika is now, by default, the least developed and most mysterious member of the StuCo. Maybe that’s on purpose due to her simplistic nature, but one wonders if there will be room for her to have a major character-defining arc this season.

For now, she presents an open dinner invitation to Kaguya, Miyuki, and Kei in appreciation for their help and friendship. With exams out of the way, Kaguya is pumped up for a dinner party and sleepover, if for no other reason than the opportunity for Miyuki to nod off on her shoulder. She wants to do it that night, but Chika’s dad is out of town.

Chika suggests an alternate site for the sleepover: Kaguya’s place! There, Chika is met by “Herthaka-kun”, Ai’s…(deep breath) gay-male-crybaby-war orphan-Harvard graduate butler persona. While Kaguya scolds Ai for weaving such rococo lies, Chika simply stands in awe of “Super Butler Herthaka-kun”…yet another potentially awesome Kaguya spin-off.

Kaguya and Chika proceed to have a lovely girls night together, and while Miyuki and Kei can’t make it to the sleepover, they are offered a window into it when Chika calls him up. She’s able to do this not only without Kaguya’s objection but her encouragement because Kaguya rarely stays up past 11, and Chika’s prattle has now kept her up past midnight.

This has the effect of rendering Kaguya into a state not dissimilar from drunkenness, where her usual inhibitions drop and her judgment is compromised. She’s in full Go-with-the-Flow Mode, so Chika FaceTimes Miyuki and asks him straight-up if he’s in love with someone.

Kei happens to be in the room when Miyuki receives the call, and becomes fully engaged in the conversation when she spots Kaguya and Chika-nee on his screen. After adorably picking up the place even though they’re not there, Kei confirms to Chika that her brother is definitely in love, because he’s always LINEing with “someone named “Herthaka.”

When Chika hears this name, and she turns to face Herthaka-kun the butler, who is presently texting, her nose bleeds and she excuses herself from the segment.

That leaves Kaguya and Miyuki on the call together. Kaguya sleepily declares her furiousness at him right now for sending texts to someone else, but says she’ll forgive him if he tells her who he’s in love with. When he hesitates, she says she’ll go first…only to fall asleep before saying the name.

Miyuki is left with female Herthaka on his screen telling him Kaguya is asleep and she’s hanging up, but not before Kei gets a good look at the girl her bro is apparently courting. Kaguya wins the round because despite her fatigue she doesn’t let slip who she loves, but in my book both she and Miyuki lose the round because they’re still stuck in an endless slog.

Maybe the cultural festival will progress things further. I’m not saying I need a confession from either or both of them for this season to be a success—it’s the ride, not the destination that counts, and this is the Rolls-Royce of rides—but it would be nice for these two to join Takagi and Nishikata in the “Official-At-Last” corner.

The Duke of Death and His Maid – 11 – The Logbook

Viola’s mom kicks her bitchiness up to 11, not only insisting her daughter dress a certain way, but accept the fact that she can’t wear what she wants or live her own life. For her mom, Viola’s future consists of being married off to the eldest possible son of the richest possible family.

Not content to sheepishly accept her status as a mere commodity to be traded, Viola “runs away” from home with her luggage, though she only ends up having a girl’s sleepover with Alice and Caph. Viola’s situation reminds use that she suffers a curse just like her brother: one that threatens to limit her prospects for life. If, say, Bocchan were to lift his curse and become the head of the family, he’d likely let Viola live her life as she saw fit.

That’s one reason why Viola gives Alice an old servant logbook which may hold answers about when and how Bocchan’s curse was first established; that, and Viola really does care for her brother. Alice ends up discovering a passage about two women in white nun’s habits visiting the main house right around the time Bocchan was cursed. It’s clearly no coincidence.

One of the white nuns in question is Daleth, leader of Zain and Caph’s order, and thanks to her being able to use the eyes of various wildlife to spy on Alice, Daleth knows the maid has her hands on the logbook. She orders Zain to take it and destroy it, with the implication that if he doesn’t harm could befall Caph. But when Zain is honest about what he’s doing and why, Bocchan offers the book back for Zain to burn. He knows Zain would do anything for Caph, just as he’d do anything for Alice.

Zain ends up “destroying” the book with his magic, but retains a tiny scrap with which he can fully restore the book once Daleth’s eyes are no longer watching. But it’s doubtful he was able to fool Daleth, who finally reveals her face this week, as wel as the bombshell that she has the corpse(?) of Alice’s mom Sharon in her possession.

The slice-of-life episodes made sure we thoroughly cared about Bocchan, Alice, Viola, Caph and Zain so that when the plot-heavy episodes like this come around, they have some bite. There’s now a non-trivial possibility the curses is lifted next week. But even if it isn’t, I don’t see Bocchan and Alice’s love for each other waning anytime soon.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Duke of Death and His Maid – 05 – The Viola Method

Viola is back, ostensibly to visit her dear old brother—who let it be said she does actually care about—but mostly to be in the presence of her beloved Rob. This may make Viola a “panther”, but she doesn’t care; men her age act like children and she has no use for them.

Viola also offers some unsolicited advice to Alice about having more charm and human appeal which…fine. Alice humors her by going along with her “Viola Method” of training, if for no other reason than it offers her yet another avenue to tease Bocchan, by talking and acting in a more cutesy manner than he’s accustomed to.

Rob later leads Viola to the kitchen to help bake, and the two find Alice and Bocchan already there making a stew. Rob is flattered by Viola’s feelings, but as she’s the age of her granddaugher (if he ever had any), nothing will ever come of it. Nevertheless, Viola likes being with Rob and Alice, and is glad her brother has them in his life.

For the next segment Viola heads home and Bocchan and Alice head to the frozen lake for some ice skating. Bocchan ends up encountering Caph’s old friend Zain (voiced by Kamiya Hiroshi), who is a magic user and bird-man, while Alice finds Caph on the ice and warms her up in her bosom. Bocchan doesn’t like how forward Zain is with Alice…and neither does Caph!

The four eventually link up (with Bocchan gingerly holding Alice’s sleeve) and skate/walk across the lake as a unit, looking very much like two couples on a double date. Just as Bocchan envies how physically close Zain and Caph can get, Zain envies how open Bocchan and Alice are with their feelings.

Caph and Zain have such a good time, they decide to invite Bocchan to the next Witches’ Sabbath. While they’re bound by oaths not to say anything that might help him, there’s nothing saying he can’t try to investigate on his own and possibly track down the witch who cursed him. And if he runs into trouble, Caph and Zain will help him out. Could some actual progress on the curse-breaking front be in the offing?

However it happens, I’m hoping breaking of the curse is definitely something I hope happens, period. Who knows, maybe due to their love for each other, Bocchan and Alice are already able to touch without her coming to harm…but it’s not exactly something they can test out, considering what would happen if they were wrong!

Instead, it’s Viola who ends up cozying up to Alice in the last segment. Kept away from Rob’s room by Bocchan, she decides to have a sleepover in Alice’s cottage, where they can engage in girl talk. Alice isn’t accustomed to bonding with other women, while Viola always wanted a big sister to pamper her, so it’s win-win for the pair.

Finally, while it’s a bit silly I haven’t mentioned it yet in five episodes, super kudos go to Mano Ayumi as the prim, silky, calm and alluring voice of Alice, particularly in her vocal performance of the ED, which is a bittersweet banger.

Fruits Basket – 51 (S3 01) – There’s No Night that Doesn’t End

Where we last left off, Kureno had just revealed to Tooru that not only was Akito a woman. No matter how much he loved Arisa, he couldn’t leave Akito’s side, not even after being freed from the curse—or especially because of that. He further explains that Akito was raised a male from birth because it was decreed by her mother Ren, to whom we are finally introduced.

Ren still lives on the grounds, but as Kureno puts it she has “some…troubles, mentally and physically.” Akito freaks out when Ren even tries to touch Hatori, while Ren insists Akito’s belief that her bonds with the Zodiac animals are real love and eternally unchanging is nothing but fantasy.

Her cruel taunting of her daughter—whom she made into a sun by pure will—causes Akito to fly into a rage, but Ren wouldn’t mind being killed, because it would mean reuniting with Akira, Akito’s late father. In a flashback Akira tells Akito she was “born to be loved”, but to Akira that probably doesn’t mean being venerated as a god.

The thing is, Ren may question whether the Zodiac bonds are right or even real, Kureno, Shigure, Hatori, and Ayame all woke up in tears the same morning Akito was conceived. Before appearing in Ren’s belly, Akito came to them in a dream, and the four kids ran to Ren, who didn’t even know she was pregnant.

From that day, Kureno felt the other self that lived inside him, in his blood, and knew he could never betray her. Even if the bond was unnatural, or painful, he simply could never push away a crying Akito, and so can’t see Arisa. Because just as Akito wounds others, she herself is wounded.

Kureno said all of this to properly explain why he can’t leave Akito ever, and that the choice to stay with her is his alone, not guided by any curse. As he leaves her in the courtyard, the DVD falls out of Tooru’s hands and she cannot move for some time, frozen by the weight of this new information.

Her scarf flies away, she falls to her knees. Rin, her ally in ending the curse, watches this from afar. Kureno explains how he went out for fresh air, gets a vicious slap from Akito, and then the two gently embrace. Then, like a gothic fairy, Saki approaches Tooru, flanked by Megumi, and announces she is “here to save the day. Ta-da.”

After informing Yuki that Tooru is in her “custody” and will be her’s “all night” (phrasing!) Saki prepares a “Nightgown Festival” to soothe Tooru’s troubled soul. She tells Tooru that she was able to detect Tooru crying in a voice no one else could hear, but was deafening to her. Tooru explains how she tried to bring Kureno and Arisa together, to make up for all the things people like Arisa did to help her…but she failed, so she’s useless.

As we see Kyou spot Tooru’s scarf lying in the street, Tooru tells Saki how Kureno is someone who puts others’ feelings before his own. I’m glad Saki’s there to essentially say “look in the mirror…that’s you!”. Saki worries if Tooru keeps taking everyone’s feelings on her shoulders, it will crush her, and her smile will disappear. Arisa enters Saki’s room to add that if Tooru’s smile disappears, “it will be the end of the world.” Neither of them will let that happen.

Arisa sits with Tooru and says she’s “trash” for maing her cry. Tooru says she’s not trash, and Arisa in turn says Tooru isn’t useless. What she is is a dummy, just as Kureno is a dummy, and Arisa can’t help but love dummies. But because she loves them, she doesn’t want to cause problems for them, so she gathers Tooru in a hug and assures her she needn’t worry; she’ll be fine. With that, the Nightgown Festival commences in earnest, and Megumi’s heart pounds as he’s surrounded by older women, the little scamp!

Rin continues slinking around the Souma compound, only to be caught by Ren, who asks her if she wants any “help.” No doubt Ren would love to lift the curse, though it’s interesting that she only comes into the picture now.

Fatigued by their emotional exertions, Tooru and Arisa fall asleep early. Megumi asks Saki if she thinks it’s really hopeless for Arisa and Kureno. Who can say? Arisa may have said “that’s it”, but Megumi isn’t so sure. Sometimes it takes a long time for lovers to find each other.

The next morning, Tooru comes home, all cheered up, and becomes even more cheered up when she finds her scarf waiting for her, courtesy of Kyou, who even washed it (though some stains remain, which is apropos!) Tooru bops him with a pom-pom once more, then Yuki and Shigure bid her good morning. As Tooru gets on with her life—no mean feat after what she’s learned—she resolves to gradually think upon the thinks Kureno told her bit by bit.

With this beautiful, magical, heartrending-and-mending opening outing, Fruits Basket continues to prove it is the final word in supernatural romantic comedy/dramas. After two exquisite seasons of painstakingly introducing characters, delivering their backstories and developing and strengthening relationships, this third, The Final, will introduce and execute the endgame.

Some of the darkest and most painful episodes may be yet to come, but I’ll happily endure them with Tooru, Arisa, Saki, Yuki, Kyou, and everyone else to see how things turn out!

Horimiya – 06 – It’s Getting Hot in Here

It’s still rather cold in these parts, so it’s refreshing for this week’s Horimiya to take place in the middle of summer. But even if it didn’t, it still radiates warmth and good vibes from every angle. Hori’s dad sees Miyamura in his school look for the first time and momentarily wonders who the hell he is.

Once he realizes it’s Miyamura, he insists they take a bath together to wash off the day’s heat. Coincidentally, Hori is watching a TV show wherein a lecher is about to assault a young woman, only for that woman to reveal she’s a skilled MMA fighter and kicks his ass.

In addition to being an amusing prism to Miyamura and Kyosuke’s dynamic, it also foreshadows a number of wonderful subversions of typical high school rom-com clichés, which like the warm and cozy aura of its main couple has fast become Horimiya specialty.

After dinner and past 8:30, Miyamura assumes he’s “worn out his welcome”, but that’s not for him to decide. Hori’s suggests he spend the night, though it’s Hori’s dad he’ll be sleeping beside. Kyousuke doesn’t interrogate him that night, only asking what Miyamura likes about his daughter. His response: she doesn’t judge people by appearances.

While this is primarily the story of Hori and Miyamura’s understated yet potently blossoming love, it’s also the story of Miyamura being accepted for who he is by his new friends at school, as well as flat-out becoming a member of Hori’s family.

It’s in this scenario he gets to see something no one else could: Hori wearing her middle school gym uniform as pajamas (when she stomps on her father to open the blinds that morning). It’s also so goddamn lovely when Hori’s mom corrects him when he’s headed out the door. He’s family, not a guest, so he should say ittekimasu, not ojamashimashita. My heart just about burst right there, but Horimiya was just getting started!

Unfortunately, most of the kids at Miyamura’s school either don’t know what a sweet guy he is and are all too willing to judge him by his “emo” appearance. When a couple guys spot him leaving the same house with Hori, it sets off a torrent of rumors at school that they’re dating.

I like how we get a little shot of Tooru and Yuki legitimately upset by this development, with Yuki actually weeping at the prospect of things turning sour just when Miyamura and Hori got their act together. I like more how despite the unsolicited attention and rumor-mongering, Hori takes everything in perfect stride. By now she’s quite comfortable confirming that Miyamura is her boyfriend, and doesn’t need to explain that relationship to anyone.

Miyamura, however, doesn’t fare as well. A common refrain in the halls is “wait…that Miyamura?”, as Hori is both hugely popular and has rejected a number of more “conventional” suitors. So Miyamura apparently decides that if the school wants a prettier cover, they’ll get it: he arrives the next day having cut his hair short, revealing his piercings and eyelashes.

It’s an interesting and complex choice by Miyamura that instantly changes the conversation, as he becomes an immediate sensation with the ladies. Rather than do it because he’s worried about adversely affecting Hori’s reputation (though that could be part of it) it feels more like an act of empowerment. It indicates that Miyamura is well aware he’s got the goods, he’s just never flaunted them at school.

Rather than passively keeping his chin up or not listening to the murmurings, Miyamura took an active step in the realignment of the conversation around him and Hori. With his new ‘do and the striking beauty it reveals, “wait…that Miyamura?” turns to “oh, that Miyamura!”. 

As one would expect, Hori isn’t used to Miyamura getting the added attention and adoration, and her reaction is to create a cold enough atmosphere around her that it shoos away the newcomers. When a girl snaps candid pics of Miyamura with their phone (without asking him, WTF!), Hori gets right in his face with a DSLR!

Despite the increased liveliness at school, what I love more than anything about both the news of Horimiya dating and Miyamura’s new look is that it doesn’t really affect their core relationship. Hori doesn’t seem hurt that Miyamura cut his hair without consulting her, and seems content with his prefab excuse that it’s summer and long hair is hot.

Hori may grow possessive at school—Miyamura is her bf; so she has every right to be!—but not so much so that she makes a federal case out of his makeover. Hori has Miyamura, and vice versa, and it’s no longer important that no one knows he’s a hottie or that they’re dating.

Since they’re the usual Horimiya, Miyamura comes home with Hori as usual, and has the unlikely but hilarious distinction of having a third distinctive look in three straight encounters with Hori’s dad. Before long, they’re answering an invite from Shindo to come to his place and help him eat bizarrely flavored hard candy.

It’s here where Miyamura again demonstrates his whimsical timing with romantic gestures, as he asks Hori how her candy tastes, then leans in and steals it from out of her mouth. She sheepishly says “he stole my candy” the way Jujutsu Kaisen’s Kasumi sheepishly says Maki stole her sword, but what he really stole was their first kiss….just like that! For the record, that candy tasted like clay, which should make the kiss that much harder to forget!

Horimiya lets that kiss simmer on the back burner a bit as we return to school, where the novelty of Miyamura’s new look has thankfully worn off…with one exception: a diminutive girl with similarly black hair and similarly blue eyes seems to be watching, following, straight-up stalking Miyamura.

When Hori and Yuki encounter her in the hall, she asks if Hori and Miyamura are dating, Hori says yes, what of it?!, and the girl beats a hasty retreat, seemingly intimidated. Miyamura’s sudden popularity bounce perfectly sets up this latest high school rom-com cliché, the new love rival, second-year Sawada Honoka.

Before long, Sawada is striding up to Miyamura and flat-out telling him to break up with Hori already, in earshot of others. But in another excellent subversion, it’s not Miyamura Sawada likes…it’s Hori. Thanks to the rumors, she’s learned Miyamura stole a march on her. But she declares she liked Hori first, and won’t accept Miyamura dating her.

This turns into a physical tug-of-war between Sawada and Miyamura, with a flustered Hori as the rope. Tooru can only watch with other classmates in amusement at the spectacle before them, and even texts Yuki to hurry over to watch. Miyamura, clearly no longer hiding who he is at school, finally forcefully grabs Hori into his arms and declares “she’s mine!”, echoing her own words when Remi prodded her about him.

After school, Sawada seemingly follows Miyamura home, only for them to realize that not only are they both heading home in the same direction, they are goddamn next-door neighbors! This is the kind of twist a show that’s built up as much goodwill and credibility as Horimiya can get away with all day long, in my book.

It also marks a further expansion of Miyamura’s relationships, as it’s clear these two aren’t going to just ignore each other from here on out. Sawada forgot her key, so he does what any decent person would do and invites her over to sample some cake from his family’s bakery. Their ensuing conversation starts with, but is not dominated by, Hori, as Sawada learns Hori rarely visits Miyamura’s place since he always goes to her place.

Sawada also assumed that Miyamura had a little brother or sister, since he’s clearly good at taking care of people. Miyamura laughs at that comment, which reminds Sawada of the older brother she says she “had”—past tense—before laughing it off herself. She’s saved by the bell when her folks come home, so she heads out, but Miyamura says she’s always welcome to stop by for some cake.

Miyamura isn’t fooled by Sawada’s last-second fakeout. Sure enough, he learns from his mom that the Sawadas lost their eldest son some time last year, who attended a different school from Izumi but was “such a nice boy”.

At first I wondered why the character designer took such pains to make Sawada so closely resemble Miyamura—was she his long-lost little sister? When we learned she liked Hori, I abandoned that theory as a bridge too far for this show, but it isn’t lost on me how quickly and easily Miyamura is portrayed as a potential surrogate big bro.

Sure enough, the next day Sawada is hounded by three boys, and she retreats to Miyamura, digging her head in his back. It only takes a momentary glare from Miyamura to disperse the lads, but it can’t be understated how glad Sawada must’ve been to have him in that moment. Naturally, when Hori shows up they’re back to competing over who likes Hori more.

Finally, in another wonderful use of what Hori’s watching on TV as a reflection of what goes on in the Hori household, she is forcing both Miyamura and, more pointedly, her dad, to watch a horror movie in which a daughter kills her father. It underscores both Hori’s taste in cinema and the tactics she’ll use to try to get her dad to leave the room, which he eventually does.

Almost the moment her dad’s gone, Hori brushes her knees together and tries her hand at Miyamura’s patented casual romantic utterances, stating “you never make any moves on me, huh.” When Miyaura responds by asking “do you want me to?” she turns red with embarrassment, causing him to chuckle over how cute she looks. Then he asks what kind of moves she wants him to make, then leans in to kiss her.

Kyousuke barges back in asking for change to buy his smokes, and the two lovebirds immediately separate, invoking her dad’s cheeky suspicion, and causing Hori to attempt to reenact the dad-murdering scene from the movie. While I’d hoped they could have shared their first kiss in which both of them were aware a kiss was going to happen here and now, at least they didn’t chicken out; they were simply interrupted. They’ll soon learn to seek places with a bit more privacy!


Wonder Egg Priority – 03 – Soft-Boiled

The bright colors and dark themes continue to intermesh as the third girl of the series is introduced. Kawai Rika’s ash-blonde hair is set off by a hot pink highlight and a magenta-and-purple jacket. Like Ai, she has a statue of someone she’s trying to save, though she makes a point to tell her she’s fat and ugly and her palm sweaty. When Ai meets her at the egg gachapon, Rika is on the ground, holding her ribs, but soon recovers miraculously.

After commenting on Ai’s heterochromia, and promptly asks for some spare change. Aka and Ura-Aka, always seated around a game of go, aren’t concerned with the injuries the girls endure; it’s part of the job. Ai’s excitement to meet a new egg heroine quickly shifts to bemusement, as her interaction with Rika feels like a “one-girl handshake event”, as Ai puts it to Neiru, with whom she’s now texting on the regular.

Between barging in on Ai’s visit with Neiru, always making sure people know her name is Kawai because she’s so darn cute, calling the doctor hot, labeling Neiru a tsundere, and most distressingly eating up all the kiwi, Rika creates the impression of a superficial, shameless, self-involved brat. Nevertheless, she keeps following Ai around, inviting herself over to her house (causing Ai’s counselor Sawaki—whom Rika also calls hot—to leave) and unilaterally deciding to sleep over.

When Ai tells her about why she’s currently a shut-in, Rika immediately jumps to the conclusion Ai is seeking attention from the hot Sawaki. Then Ai tells her about Koito, then asks about the person Rika is trying to save. Rika makes clear the “ugly fatty” Chiemi isn’t her friend, but her fan, and also refers to her as a patron and a wallet. Ai is more or less appalled.

As Rika bathes we see scars on her arm from cutting, which she’s promised to stop. It was clear she was using a veneer of carefree bravado to hide deeper issues, but the scars confirm it without anyone saying a word. She says everyone’s the same in that when you “scratch the surface” they’re all “slimy”—something you could also say of an egg. Neiru texts Ai to be careful with Rika, warning that “junior idol could mean bedroom stuff.” That Ai earnestly asks “like pillow fights?” really says it all about Ai’s sheltered existence.

Ai dreams of a memory of her walking in on Koito crying while in Sawaki’s arms, adding a fresh dimension to their past together. One could interpret such a scene in any number of ways both innocent and otherwise, but Ai quickly apologizes and shuts the classroom door, believing she’d seen something she shouldn’t have. She’s also pondered ever since whether Sawaki was a factor Koito’s suicide. She wakes up in her cocoon bed, over 50% of which is being taken up by the smaller Rika.

Ai then awakes in Rika’s dream. Due to their proximity in bed they “synchonized”, as Ura-Aka tells them, and it’s Rika’s dream because she’s apparently the one with the stronger feelings. They crack their eggs at once, revealing two fans of the singer “Yu-Yu”. They were so fanatical, in fact, that when Yu-Yu committed suicide, they did the same. When Ai says “just like that?” Rika corrects her: their choice was neither easy nor casual. She knows, because she had a fan.

When the usual horde of Seeno Evils (which Rika calls “bystanders”) starts to swarm, Rika and Ai get to work smiting them with their weapons; Rika’s two swords resembling giant versions of the box cutter she used to cut herself. It’s determined the field of flowers is too wide open, so the four girls head to a lighthouse within the nearby woods. It’s there, while they have a couple minutes to catch their breath, that Ai asks Rika to tell her about Chiemi.

After hand-waving the scars Ai spots as “just a youthful whatever”, Rika starts out by explaining the formal and emotional context of a junior-idol handshake event. When you’re only mildly popular like her group was, the lines were shorter, which meant the same fans would line up over and over. Chiemi did this with Rika, who shook her sweaty hand many hundreds of times.

Eventually, Chiemi would give Rika money. Rika accepted it, and began to expect and even rely on it. Like the two Yu-Yu fans who had “sugar daddies”, Rika saw Chiemi as a rich patron. She later learned Chiemi was shoplifting and fencing stuff to make money to give her. When Chiemi started to think of them as friends, Rika ended their relationship, ripping Chiemi off like a Band-Aid and telling her she was too fat and ugly to be anything more than a fan and a wallet.

She never saw Chiemi again until her funeral, and was forever haunted by what she saw that day. In a gutting inversion of the geography of the handshake event, Rika and Chiemi have switched places. Peering into the open casket, Rika saw nothing but skin and bones, like a mummy. Knowing she’ll never be able to forget her if she tried, Rika took Chiemi’s hand one more time. Since then, she’s vowed to kill as many Seenos and Wonder Killers as it takes if it will bring her back.

The Seenos break through, leading to a frenetic chase up the spiraling lighthouse stairs. Ai stumbles, still processing Rika’s heartbreaking tale, but also acknowledging that while she receded into the Seenos at a crucial time due to fear, a part of her also resented Koito for never talking to her like friends should; the kind of talking she just experienced with Rika, which helped her understand better where she’s coming from and why she is the way she is.

She also looks on the Yu-Yu fangirls with a measure of envy. They were able to die with their idol. If Koito had asked her to die with her, she thinks she would have. But what’s done is done, and what was left unsaid remains so. Ai gets back on her feet and powers up her rainbow mace, striking a very cool heroine pose at the top of the steps and assuring Rika she’ll kill ’em all with her. Rika’s quizzical reaction is priceless.

From there, we meet the fangirls’ Wonder Killer, an older woman who stalked Yu-Yu and pushed her into suicide. Ai and Rika spring into action like the pair of valiant heroines they are. Rika frees the fans by slicing off the Killer’s arm, while Ai delivers a crushing blow to the face with her mace.

What follows is why it’s particularly hazardous to engage in boss fights before you’re aware of their special moves. The Killer unleashes a cloud of dark smoke that everyone is able to dodge except Rika, who is immediately paralyzed and soon turns to stone. Before her face petrifies, she wishes Ai good luck. It’s all up to Ai now: she must protect the petrified Rika and the helpless Yu-Yu fans while defeating the biggest toughest Wonder Killer yet.

Perhaps Ai and/or Rika haven’t considered that Aka and Ura-Aka are just using them. Or they’re fighting even while part of them is well aware they may end up getting cheated. But in either case they have no other choice. Now Ai’s mettle will be tested like never before. Hopefully she can get the job done and wake up beside Rika, with neither of them too seriously injured.

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 08 – Beautiful from Any Angle

Ever since she got wasted and threw up on his futon, Uzaki has been out of sorts. While apologizing in public and offering money for the futon, bystanders get the wrong idea thanks to a lot of unfortunate phrasing. But at the cafe, Ami has the antidote for Uzaki’s recent blues. Sakurai will take Uzaki out to the fireworks festival, and if he’s nice and compliments the hell out of her yukata, she’ll cheer up: Ami guarantees it.

The night of the festival Ami is proven right; Uzaki is still down and things are awkward, and despite how annoying he’s typically found her, Sakurai just thinks it’s wrong for Uzaki to be so down. His steady stream of compliments eventually bring out the usual energetic Uzaki-chan, but also results in her accidentally hitting him too hard in the head with her purse.

Even before the blow, Uzaki’s quiet-and-meek disposition reminded him of her when they were still in high school, and while he’s out cold, he remembers one evening she was practicing alone (which is dangerous) and he jumped in the pool to help guide her. That night they came across the fireworks festival, he bought them grilled corn (perfect after all that swimming), and he watched Uzaki’s subdued face brighten up for the first time.

When Sakurai comes to, he’s in Uzaki’s lap, not quite able to see her face, but he can tell she’s back to being meek and contrite over braining him. So Sakurai does what a good guy would do: look back on their time together since reuniting at college and admitting it’s all been pretty fun. He’s been able to see and do so many things he otherwise wouldn’t, so he tells her not to be so down, and invites her to hang out more before summer is over.

Sakurai may not be able to see the reaction in Uzaki’s face either to his words or the fireworks, but it doesn’t matter; “the view is fine” from where he is. While last week’s interactions were lubricated by alcohol and looser inhibitions, this was the true romantic standout episode thus far, when Sakurai is open and honest about how he feels about their time together, and Uzaki shows more than her usual quasi-loner-bullying default mode. Nice work, all!

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 07 – The Cause and the Solution

“Please be with me. I need you.” These are the words that cause Uzaki to rush to Sakurai’s side, only to be disappointed: he couldn’t go into a cat cafe without someone with him.

I realize he probably didn’t consider how his words over the phone sounded, but he’s gotta be more careful with his words as he spends more time with Uzaki! Sakurai, who loves cute things, is over the moon to be surrounded by friendly cats; Uzaki is both charmed and creeped out by this side of him.

But for briefly leading her on, she punishes him by poking his foot with hers while his legs are asleep from being folded too long. The barista tosses them out for unauthorized “play”, but both Sakurai and Uzaki had a good time.

Because he owes her for “being with him”, he offers to do something for her. In response, she just says her 20th birthday is coming up (the age Japanese can legally purchase alcohol), and expects “great things”.

While racking his brain for a gift she won’t reject or mock him for, he gets the same kind of misleadingly amorous call he gave her, though apparently she’s not getting back at him on purpose; she just doesn’t want to go into a pub alone. So her birthday plan is sorted: Sakurai guides her through the world of alcohol and its role in heightening enjoyment of food, the night…and company.

Homer Simpson once toasted alcohol as “the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” Now that Uzaki is a part of that world (and loving every minute of it) one wonders if a little of it (or in her case, a lot) would grease the wheels of romantic progress with these two (along with the actual grease of the fried food they eat with their drinks).

Alas, Uzaki isnt the heavyweight she thinks she is, and it all hits her at once by the time they leave the pub. It shouldn’t be a surprise that her drunk self is simply a less restrained, more wobbly version of her sober self, but Sakurai wonders if she planned for them to be out until the trains stop running and when he’s out of cash for taxi fare.

Grudgingly letting her stay over at his place, she tries to stay up playing games, and when he apparently falls asleep she leans in to kiss him, proving that he was only pretending and delighted by his bashful reaction. But a near-kiss is all that happens, as Uzaki soon passes out, enabling Sakurai to finally get some sleep.

Uzaki experienced the joys of alcohol, and in the morning come the horrors in the form of a five-alarm hangover; her very first but probably not her last. Sakurai watches over her as she prays empathically to the porcelain god, and puts her up in bed.

Before he leaves for the store, Uzaki earnestly thanks him for sharing her first pub visit, saying she had fun. Sakurai feels likewise…but the lovely moment is ruined when Uzaki vomits all over herself and the futon! Ah well, a ruined futon and steep pub check are a small price to pay for making Uzaki happy on her birthday.

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