Chihayafuru 3 – 20 – Sticking Around

On a luck-of-the-draw that would have sealed Dr. Harada’s victory, he faults, giving he win to Master Suo and forcing a fifth decisive match. It’s really the closest of close outcomes, but Harada tries not to let it get to him, and retires to his chambers to rest. But the moment Suo won, I knew not only that he’d win it all, but that he’d be back for more next year.

Between matches, Shinobu unties the tasuki Chihaya gave her and notices the bear motifs. Just as the cards ultimately decided to side with her, Chihaya’s good wishes were always there under her arms, letting her move freely and confidently. She says as much in her post-victory interview, giving Inokuma her fair due while also saying she won today because of those beside her.

As for Chihaya, she goes off on her own, cursing herself for not being born a man so she could teach that nasty Master Suo a lesson in her own arena. That’s when Arata arrives—at the exact moment Taichi finds her—resulting in Chihayafuru going into Full Soap Opera Mode for a few fleeting moments, as an enamored Oe and Sumire watch. Suffice it to say Chihaya is in no position to respond to Arata’s confession yet.

Harada’s best chance of becoming Master slipped thorough his fingers when the fourth match ended in a luck-of-the-draw, but he still had a chance if Suo played as lazily as he did in the first two matches. Yeah…that wasn’t gonna happen. Due in large part to the older Harada’s unrelenting intensity, Suo is shaken from his apathy, and after scarfing down a whole box of daifuku, ties his hair up and shaves his beard, getting correct before his swift and almost foregone victory to clinch his fifth win and successful defense.

Surely Harada saw how he gradually poked the karuta monster that is Master Suo awake simply by wanting to take his throne so badly. The sting of Harada’s defeat is softened by two factors: his wife never actually cared about him becoming Master, just in having fun; and the young bucks who watched his epic duel with Suo now have more ammo for going after him in the future. After all, Harada is a player, a teacher, and a mentor. You could even say he taught Suo a lesson by playing him so damn hard he almost won.

When Suo is phoning in his live interview, Arata beats Chihaya to the punch and loudly urges Suo not to retire, but return next year, so he can beat him. Suo doesn’t tell his interviewer how much goddamn fun he had playing Harada, but he sure as hell is thinking it, and Arata provides the little nudge Suo needed to reverse his decision to retire. This, after Taichi was expressing inner relief that he wouldn’t have to deal with Suo, in another stark contrast to Arata.

Inokuma Haruka is pretty sure she’s done too, and even comes to believe she’s finally carrying her first daughter after two sons (she told god a third son was fine as long as she won, but alas). But Sion’s grandmother isn’t buying it. From her perspective, Haruka is still a spring chicken, and it’s ludicrous to her to think she’s done with competitive karuta. It’s all about perspective.

After ten long hours of tense karuta, the Mizusawa gang rushes to catch the last Shinkansen out of Kyoto, but in their haste, Chihaya neglects to notice Taichi didn’t board the train with them. That’s because he’s staying behind to play in the Takamatsu Memorial Cup tomorrow. I guess his thinking is if Arata’s going to go behind his back and confess to Chihaya, he’s going steal a march on Chihaya to jump back on a different train: the train to karuta greatness.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 16 – Stuck On You

Hikari has Iroha prepared for the worst—that he’d move to Hokkaido with his mom. Even though the two have progressed enough in their relationship for her to know and openly admit that she’s not helping matters, she still can’t help yelling at him and running off in a tizzy.

I mean, she wouldn’t do either if she didn’t truly care for and love Hikari. But she’s super-frustrated that neither of them can do anything about it…which is why it’s auspicious that while walking home she crosses paths with someone who can: Hikari’s father.

Iroha uses the opportunity to introduce herself as Hikari’s girlfriend, and Dad apologizes for indirectly disrupting her life as well, but assures her he’s working on a solution, and seems encouraged by Iroha’s devotion to his son for all the right reasons.

The same time Iroha goes to Hikari’s house to apologize for her outburst, Kono, the woman Hikari’s dad is seeing, also pays a visit. They whisk her away to a family restaurant, and Iroha proceeds to lays into her by saying nothing that isn’t true.

She admonishing the 24-year-old Kono for crying when it’s she and Hikari who should be crying about this situation. Iroha would hope someone of Kono’s age would know loving someone is no excuse for destroying the lives of others.

As Kono gets told the riot act, eventually confessing that she didn’t think going out for a couple dinners would be that bad, both Itou and Ayado think about the last time they interacted. She approached him to apologize for ignoring him, and he told her she didn’t have to talk to him anymore, and apologizes himself for not being able to be her friend (since he can’t help but want more).

Ayado ends up moping on the roof, but thankfully, she’s not stuck in that inactive funk for long, because Ishino Arisa is on the case. When Ayado explains how she felt she had no right to fall for someone else so soon after falling for Tsutsui, Ishino delivers a swift slap to the face. Of course she has a right to be happy, and she has to take every opportunity she’s got to do so! If Itou has the wrong idea, she has to correct him!

When Hikari and Iroha realize his dad and Kono never actually did it, but only had dinner a couple times, Iroha is embarrassed for taking things too far, but Hikari is even more angry at his dad for not being clearer about the extent of his betrayal of Mom.

Hikari and Iroha take his dad to the restaurant (I swear high schoolers shouldn’t be able to afford this many trips to the famures, unless Pops is paying the second time around) to talk it through, and he proceeds to tell them the story of how he and his wife, Hikari’s mom, Kie met.

It all started with an act of kindness (not surprising, coming from a Tsutsui male): when one of Kie’s shoes broke, he fixed it with some of the glue he always had on hand (“I’m not a shoemaker, I’m a gluemaker” is a great line that actually sounds better in English).

Kie takes him out to dinner to thank him, and wonders why he’s so quiet. When she brings up the subject of glue, he talks her ear off, then apologizes for being such a “lost cause.” But Kie isn’t impatient; she’s charmed by this kind, awkward guy, and laughs.

When Kie is out with her drunk boss and that boss propositions her, telling her she’s incompetent and only kept around the office because of him, Hikari’s dad (who happened to be there) is there to comfort her. Even though he couldn’t run out and slug her boss, he is able to fix her shoe (again), and comfort her in her moment of vulnerability. He confesses his love to her, and notes how absurd that is considering they hardly know each other…but Kie doesn’t mind. She wants to know him better.

The rest is history…or would be history if Hikari’s dad continued to sit on the sidelines and do and say nothing to stop his marriage and family from becoming destroyed. Hikari has him seek Kie out at the playground to try to work things out, and he’s ultimately successful by being honest, forthright, and kind, the qualities that made her fall for him in the first place. Kie forgives her husband his transgressions, as not only were they not as severe as she initially believed, and that they served to rekindle his love for her.

With that crisis averted, the episode closes with Ayado calling out to Itou, who seemingly ignores her and boards the bus. But he ends up approaching her and asking what’s the matter, like he doesn’t know…and Ayado throws herself at him and tells him what’s the matter: he ignored her, he told her she didn’t have to talk to him anymore…and she can’t think about anything but him. Really great work by Ueda Reina here, as usual, and encouraging news on all dramatic fronts!

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 15 – Glue Won’t Fix This

Hikari can’t believe how peaceful his life is, post-cultural festival. He didn’t say anything stupid to piss off Iroha, and things seem pretty five-by-five at home too, with his brother Kaoru asking for money to take Anzu on a date but promising to pay him back, while their mom has taken up yoga in an effort to get back some of her past splendor (I can relate to Hikari’s discomfort; my mom was also quite the looker in her youth, which is why I am a looker).

But that peace suddenly shatters, and not due to anything on the girlfriend or school side. All this time Hikari’s family was just humming along in the background, but we barely saw his dad. Turns out, they barely saw him too. And while Hikari and Iroha are at a family restaurant they overhear a young woman telling an older man that it would be wrong to keep seeing each other. The older man turns out to be…Hikari’s Dad.

Hikari keeps what he knows from his mom, but she finds out when his dad tells her, and all of a sudden his family life has become a soap opera. Hikari wants his dad to stand up for himself or at least offer some kind of defense beyond a flaccid “I’m sorry”, to no avail. Hikari has a dessert picnic with Iroha to get out of the house, but when he returns things have escalated and divorce papers are literally on the table.

If his mom divorces his dad, she’ll take one of the two kids all the way up to Hokkaido with her, which means some serious upheaval for that kid, not to mention being separated from their girlfriend. When Hikari meets with Itou, the latter is still twisted up in a knot over what went down after the festival with Ayado (she ran off after he said what he said and can’t even make eye contact with him now). But even Itou recognizes that Hikari’s also in big trouble.

Hikari is cursed with a little brother who, despite still being in grade school, already possesses logic that meets or exceeds that of a full-grown adult. Hikari is honest with him that he can’t move to Hokkaido because of Iroha, but his bro has Anzu, so there’s no simple answer of which kid should go.

Hikari has one-on-ones with both his dad and mom, and learns that his dad still loves his mom but isn’t sure he deserves her anymore (mirroring Hikari’s own frequent feelings vis-a-vis Iroha). His pops also gets quite poetic, noting the irony of a glue researcher being unable to keep the bonds of matrimony together. But isn’t that because, like Hikari with friends, he’s just not trying hard enough?

When his mom leaves a note saying she’ll be out of the house for a while, Hikari is the one to track her down, insisting she reconsider as he doesn’t want the family broken up at all. But all he seems to do is convince her that he’s the son she should take with her to Hokkaido. Unless Iroha is willing to move with him, it’s going to be the dreaded long-distance relationship. So much for peace!

Kimi no Iru Machi – 09

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Haruto tells Asuka about his “non-date” to FantasyLand with Rin, and she’s okay with it, but when he shows up, Yuzuki is there; Rin tricked them both into the date. They only go in briefly so Haruto can get a phone strap for Asuka. Rin admonishes him afterwords while he’s at work, and when he sees Asuka next, he lies about having seen Yuzuki, who visits him at the market to tell him she’s visiting his parents in Hiroshima. The next day Asuka is down, leading Haruto to think Rin blabbed, but it turns out she has to take care of her mother on the date they planned to go on their trip. Haruto tells her it’s fine, and they’ll make other plans.

Has Haruto’s relationship with Asuka devolved into one of obligation? Now that he’s gotten a taste of a date with Yuzuki (courtesy Rin), are his feelings starting to stray? In a word, no…not yet at least. As on-edge and dicey as things got this week, the episode still ends with Haruto on top of Asuka, again co-victims physics and their hormones – until his sister shows up at the worst possible time. Haruto may have lied to Asuka – AGAIN, the dick – this week, but he got away with it…for now. The fact remains he told Asuka he went with Rin when in truth he was with Yuzuki. Rin said she wouldn’t tell Asuka, but Haruto shouldn’t have been dumb enough to believe her and create an alternate story.

We know why he did it: telling Asuka that he met with his ex again in a date-like atmosphere wouldn’t have sat well with her at all, but let’s not forget, Asuka still trusts Haruto implicitly in addition to loving her. We think he loves her too, which is why he probably feels he’s “protecting” her by not telling the truth. But that’s bullshit; if and when Asuka gets the skinny from Rin, or finds out some other way, she’ll be hurt anyway. We’re not saying he needs to tell her everything, but he shouldn’t have to lie, and he certainly didn’t need to go out with Rin in the first place, especially when he knows what Rin is capable of vis-a-vis Yuzuki. We have a bad feeling about him returning to Hiroshima the same time the Eba sisters.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We said before the big plans to go to Okinawa had the feeling of a (relationship) death flag. That the trip is postponed doesn’t bode well.
  • Yuzuki was oddly game about the whole date thing, seeming disappointed when they decided to part ways, then relieved when Haruto called her back.
  • We’re imagining Haruto’s manager at Lawson: “What the hell are all these ladies coming in here talking to you while you’re on the clock? SHAPE UP, KIRISHIMA. Of course, he won’t…
  • Asuka’s layered reaction to Haruto stuffing his face in her crotch was pretty fantastic! We love Asuka to bits, we just wish she had a better boyfriend…

Kimi no Iru Machi – 04

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Both Asuka and Kyousuke are concerned when they see a visibly forlorn Haruto. Kyousuke takes him on an exhilarating ride on his motorcycle as a distraction, telling him whether he decides to find someone new or snatch back Eba from her new boyfriend, he’ll support him no matter what. When Kyousuke is about to start his bike back up, he passes out. Haruto gets him to the hospital, where he learns Kyousuke has anemia.

Asuka rushes to the room and Kyousuke tells her about Haruto’s plans regarding his ex. Kyousuke mentions he had to persevere to get his current girlfriend, and when she arrives in the room, it turns out to be Eba Yuzuki. She and Haruto pretend not to know each other for Kyousuke’s sake, and Haruto leaves. While walking home with Asuka, Haruto says he’ll give up on his ex, which pleases her. Still, re-reading the break-up text Eba sent him and recalling what Kyousuke said in the hospital, Haruto suspects something fishy is going on.

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This week’s heart-sinking twist further cements this series’ status as a bonafide anime soap opera, deriving much of its appeal from creating moments of intense emotional drama between characters. As a result, it’s not for everyone, but we’re on board. The knife is twisted for Haruto when he suddenly learns that his best mate’s girlfriend is the same girl he came to Hiroshima to win back, something his mate is gung ho about helping him with. Things would have been cleared up pretty fast had Haruto and Eba come clean about their past relationship, but neither felt it the time or the place, which brings us to Kyousuke himself, who’s been dealt just as bad if not a worse hand than Haruto.

Sure, he has the girl he always wanted after much “desperate perseverance”, but if he knew that Eba was Haruto’s true love, he’d probably feel pretty bad, and conflicted to boot. If/when he does learn the truth, he’ll feel betrayed by both of them for keeping him from the truth. Add to that the illness he suffers from that may keep him from pursuing his dream to race motorcycles, and Kyousuke’s is hardly an enviable position. Except Haruto can’t help but envy him; he has her girl. And even though Haruto told Asuka he was giving up (which in her mind means she may now have a chance with him), Haruto still manages to find something fishy that compels him to run out of his sister’s apartment in search of more answers to why everything is so messed up.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)