Jaku-Chara Tomozaki-kun – 07 – Fall Today, Rise Tomorrow

It’s time for the campaign speeches, and Hinami controls the crowd as expected. Mimimi and Tomozaki are all ready to hit their key demographics when Hinami suddenly steals all their thunder by promising not only an electric ball pump, but A/C for every classroom.

Tomozaki knows they’ve been outmaneuvered by NO NAME, but Yumi and Mimimi still head out there and do their best, with Tomozaki rigging a Siri-like digital assistant that Mimimi can riff off of in order to amuse the crowd. Mimimi steps away from the podium and leaps into her “Brain’s” arms, feeling really good about her chances.

And then, Hinami proceeds to absolutely obliterate her at the polls, 416-131. That’s like a “U.S. House vote declaring puppies are cute” kind of landslide! It again underscores the yawning chasm between first and second place. Tomozaki joins Mimimi for a commiseratory rooftop visit, but Mimimi maintains an “I’ll get her next time” attitude.

Tomozaki isn’t sure whether Mimimi’s putting on a brave face, but at their next debriefing, Hinami expresses her surprise and pride in Tomozaki’s tactics, even if they were ultimately unsuccessful. Here I was ready for Hinami to be cut down to size, but instead her arrogance is rewarded with an easy and convincing win.

She immediately shifts back into helping-Tomozaki mode, presenting him with the task of asking Fuuka (remember her?) out to a movie. It’s a brief scene, and Fuuka already knows the theater where the movie is playing, but to Tomozaki’s credit he fights through the blushing, maintains eye contact, and asks Fuuka out, and she immediately accepts.

That could be one hell of a lovely date to watch, especially as Tomozaki has found he legitimately likes the Andi novels Fuuka loves, and thus will have plenty to talk about. That is…if he doesn’t stand Fuuka up due to an issue arising with Mimimi; namely that she isn’t able to give up trying to beat Hinami.

Aside from her real talk at the playground last week, Mimimi hasn’t really expressed what she really thinks, but it’s obvious she wasn’t prepared to be beaten as soundly as she was in the election, so acting like nothing’s wrong and working herself to the bone is concerning, not just to Tomozaki, but to her friend Tama.

While they watch Hinami and Mimimi practice around the track, Tama tells Tomozaki how Mimimi went to Hinami for advice on how to best approach Tama, back in first year when Tama had no friends. Hinami’s advice was for Mimimi to approach Tama a little bit at a time, even if it was just playfully poking her face.

After school and practice Tomozaki joins the three girls for a trip to the konbini, where they enjoy their usual dynamic. But then episode ends with the foreboding words “But the next day, Mimimi wasn’t quite herself.” I’m curious to see if Tomozaki can apply what he’s learned to “rescue” Mimimi the way she rescued Tama. I’m also preemptively preparing myself emotionally for the possibility that he’ll stand up Fuuka!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jaku-Chara Tomozaki-kun – 06 – The Second-Tallest Mountain

Hinami has a bold idea for Tomozaki’s next assignment. While she was going to make him her own campaign manager for the StuCo presidential election, but with Mimimi throwing her hat in the ring, Hinami believes Tomozaki will get more out of being Mimimi’s manager. Hinami makes clear this isn’t meant to be a form of electoral sabotage: Mimimi is important to her. But she’s as confident that no one—not even Mimimi—can beat her.

Hinami’s attitude towards Tomozaki is basically “You’re not going to win, but give it your best shot”. The question is, is Hinami really this arrogant about the certainty of her victory, or is she quietly hoping Tomozaki will help Mimimi supplant her? Absent other information, I proceeded thinking the former: Hinami wants to win, and she’s not orchestrating her own exit from the spotlight.

Just as she has every right to believe victory is in the bag, Tomozaki has every right to doubt his ability to manage Mimimi’s campaign. Heck, when they almost collide in the hall and he earnestly asks her, she turns him down flat, justifiably questioning his reliability. While in the library, he gets extra context from Fuuka for why Mimimi is even going after Hinami’s throne: she wants to change things, and herself. So does Fuuka, though she adorably tells Tomozaki not to tell anyone!

The next morning outside of school, Tomozaki witnesses Mimimi campaigning beside her kohai and handpicked manager Yumi. He also spots Hinami working the crowd with her manager Mizusawa (the undertones of those two being a couple go uncommented upon). Hinami makes personal appeals to everyone around her, having memorized virtually all of their club affiliations.

Tomozaki sees how formidable a boss Hinami is, and how it’s probably for the best Mimimi chose someone else as her manager. But that changes when they almost collide in the hall again, and Tomozaki can immediately tell Mimimi needs help with her list of campaign promises. Not with the content, mind you: with the layout. He revises it in the lab and wins her over, but for her, it begs the question: why is he so dead set on helping her?

Tomozaki is ready with an answer she can relate to: The uber-powerful Hinami is simply an irresistible challenge to go up against; he wants to take her on and win. What he doesn’t tell Mimimi is that he’s not currently leveled up enough to go toe-to-toe with Hinami in the game of life—she’d mop the floor with him in any theoretical “battle”. But he could gain crucial life XP by “summoning” the top-tier character Mimimi as his “champion”.

Hinami may be imposing in her ability to amass and win hearts and minds, but as he follows her around the school, Tomozaki is reminded how Mimimi is no slouch in that department. Foregoing a full-on frontal assault for a rearguard action, Mimimi targets specific school groups and negotiates bargains in exchange for their votes.

It starts in the gym, where Mimimi can’t help but stuff her head inside Hanabi’s shirt, but she also makes an appeal to her senpai, promising an electric pump for all of the ball clubs. Later that afternoon, Tomozaki and Mimimi rest a spell in a park, where he notices her “totes adorbs” new haniwa (traditionally a funerary object), and she provides further context for her quixotic run at Hinami.

Mimimi starts out with a very effective quiz for Tomozaki: He’s able to immediately answer what is Japan’s tallest mountain or America’s first president, but in the case of naming number two, he doesn’t know. Mimimi does, because she’s perpetually been number two at school, both in academics and sports. She wants to move out of the second place shadows, to better validate all of her hard work and be recognized for it.

Later, Tomozaki asks Hanabi for some help sound checking the gym for Mimimi’s campaign speech. Despite being shirted by Mimimi earlier, Hanabi agrees without hesitation, because it’s for her friend Mimimi’s sake. She just asks Tomozaki to look out for Mimimi, who is an “overdoer” despite her claims to the contrary.

Mimimi and her “Brain” stay in constant contact via LINE (at which Tomozaki has gotten much better) while at school, Tomozaki has grown accustomed to Mimimi’s bubbly enthusiasm and it’s even rubbed off on him a bit, which amuses her to no end. He’s even learned to dodge her back-slapping! The two are well and truly on the same wavelength. Hinami spots the two from her perch on the upper level of the cafeteria, initially looking concerned, but then with a proud smile.

Their physical positions in this scene are instructive. Tomozaki and Mimimi are doing everything they can to win this thing from the lower ground, even though Hinami, by all indications, is sitting pretty atop the high ground, and still not even considering the possibility of an upset loss to Mimimi. But ultimately, only one candidate can win.

Questions abound: Will the result profoundly affect their friendships, and if so, how? If Mimimi loses, can she take solace in knowing she did her very best with Tomozaki by her side? Could their time together lead to them…dating? Would Hinami handle defeat with grace, or with an identity crisis? With its intricate and fast-evolving relationships, Bottom-Tier Tomozaki has infused new life and intrigue in the well-worn school election scenario, and I can’t wait for the returns!

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 01 – Happy Life Game

With Re:Zero, SAO, and SNAFU all postponed due to These Times, Love is War emerges as our #1 most-anticipated sequel of the Spring. That’s not to say it wasn’t the equal or better of those; only Dororo and The Promised Neverland ranked higher than Kaguya’s first season in Winter 2019. Those were a couple of absolute powerhouses, but neither was a school rom-com.

Love is War’s second season wastes no time getting right back down to business, delivering a tantalizing variety of scenarios involving our favorite will-they-won’t-they couple in years. The first segment focuses on Hayasaka Ai, who as Kaguya’s servant and ally wants to help her mistress achieve love and is willing to go to Mission Impossible style lengths to see to it.

Unfortunately, her considerable efforts prove wasted. After going to the trouble of switching Miyuki’s regular coffee with decaf, thus bricking him,. Kaguya is utterly paralyzed by the fact his sleeping head came to rest on her shoulder, and whatever it was she wanted to do with that tape measure never comes to pass.

The next segment reiterates Miyuki and Kaguya’s additional roles as love-advice sages despite their utter lack of experience (beyond their various machinations involving one another, of course). Tsubasa returns from Summer vacay utterly transformed into a “dude-bro” and only seems to want to throw his lovely dating situation in Miyuki and Yuu’s faces.

When his girlfriend Nagisa shows up, Miyuki and Yuu leave the office while she waits for Kaguya, leaving Nagisa and Tsubasa alone. Kaguya and Chika arrive just as things start getting hot and heavy in the office, but Nagisa reveals she and Tsubasa were only teasing them. They successfully punk’d the whole of the StuCo.

The third segment underscores Chika’s importance as the chaotic ball of energy that is constantly—and usually unconsciously—either helping or hindering Kaguya and Miyuki’s progress. This time it’s with a game her Tabletop Game Club came up with: the “Happy Life Game.”

In real life, Kaguya lucked out by being born into money; in the game she lucked into a big #MeToo settlement. To her horror, Miyuki ends up marrying Chika and they have nine kids, while Kaguya gets richer and richer remains single into old age.

Even when Miyuki and Chika divorce late in life, Kaguya can’t get married due to a DISTRUSTS ALL MEN card. The game is a nightmare for all except Chika, who had fun, and Yuu, who was happy to die on his first turn.

Finally, the episode closes with a segment that hearkens back to the time when Kaguya and Miyuki were cold and impersonal with one another. A year ago, Kaguya told him she wouldn’t dream of doing anything special for his upcoming birthday, but a lot’s changed in a year and his birthday is all she can think about.

When Chika introduces a horoscope app based on gender and birthday, Kaguya can smell the Barnum effect of the fortunes. She still insists on Miyuki participating, which he vehemently refuses to do. Turns out he’d not only already used that app (and wasn’t pleased with the fortune), but has Kaguya’s birthday of January 1 prominently marked in his planner, just as his is in hers.

Kaguya, perhaps prematurely, interprets Miyuki’s reluctance to do anything for his birthday as a sign he’d rather do something just with her, like a couple. I doubt he’d have a problem with that if it went down, but he’d never tell Kaguya that.

We’ll see if Kaguya can make it happen without betraying her intentions too overtly. She’ll probably need help from Agent Hayasaka. Until then, Love is War’s return was packed with wonderful situations, dialogue, animation, and laughs.

Oresuki: Are You Really the Only One Who Likes Me? – 01 (First Impressions) – Why is that Bench There?

Right off the bat, Oresuki looks good—and keeps looking good; there’s a lot of love in the animation and character design—but otherwise feels so damn boring. Ordinary high school kid narrating? Check. Childhood friend who likes him, unbeknownst to him? Check. Regal StuCo Prez who won’t give him the time of day? Check. Everyone has nicknames. Stop narrating! Show, don’t tell!

So, it’s not looking good. But then interesting things start happening. First, Regal StuCo Prez Akino “Cosmos” Sakura asks Ordinary high school kid Kisaragi “Joro” Amatsuyu out on a Saturday date…but it’s not what he thinks. When she sits him down on a bench, she doesn’t confess her love for him, but his best friend, Ooga “Sun” Taiyou. She wants him to help her go out with him.

The next day, Joro spends the day with his childhood friend, Hinata “Himawari” Aoi. She sits him down on a bench and confesses her love not for him, but for Sun! Even more hilarious, she fell in love with him at the same exact time Cosmos did—when they spotted him from opposite sides of a hall secretly crying after a big team loss.

Needless to say, Joro is pissed off; he was aware that Himawari had feelings for him, and no doubt saw her as a reliable Plan B. Instead, because he can’t resist either of the girls’ charms in the moment, he agrees to help both of them get with his best friend, whom Joro admits is quite a catch.

As all of this goes down, Joro shares his inner thoughts with us, the audience, like Fleabag in…Fleabag. And while he’s patient and dutiful to both Himawari and Cosmos as the two bomb in their attempts to naturally approach Sun, his Plan C is to help both of them and let Sun decide, and he’ll ask out whomever Sun rejects. I mean, Sun can’t date both of them…can he? (He totally can.)

But the sequence of twists in Joro’s carefully manicured bonsai of a plan for high school love is not yet finished: there’s a third bench. That bench is purchased on Amazon by the librarian’s aide Sanshokuin “Pansy” Sumireko, a girl who is quiet and meek to everyone but Joro, whom she teases and berates at every turn.

As Joro learns when she makes him sit on that third bench (to the tune of a modified arrangement of “The Imperial March”, hilariously enough), Sumireko is in love with him. Not Cosmos, not Himawari, but Pansy. Furthermore, she’s been stalking him for a while and the Joro she’s fallen for isn’t the Nice Joro he presents to everyone else. She wants Inner Thoughts Joro. Mean Joro. The Joro he only shows us, the odd slip-up aside.

Just like that, Mr. Calm, Cool, and Cynical is totally off-balance. Someone he’d never imagined would come close to liking him is the only one who likes him. Yet of the three young women, Pansy seems like the one best suited for him—I mean, she likes the guy beneath the surface! And though we saw her the least this week, I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of her, even as Joro tries to stick to his Plan C.

Oresuki starts out cliched and obvious on purpose, so when interesting things start happening and it flips the script on you not once or twice but three times, you’re that much more surprised and delighted. Or at least I was. But you don’t have to take my word for it…go watch it!

Fruits Basket – 13 – Yuki-kun, Adult Version

I always get antsy whenever Tooru’s hanging with Yuki in his garden, wondering what new devilry will come afoul of them. In this case, it’s a snake, but it’s okay, that snake is Souma Ayame, The Snake of the Zodiac. Being cold-blooded, he doesn’t do well when it’s cold, but you still have to wonder if he just used that as an excuse to hide inside Tooru’s shirt dress.

Ayame, who is actually Yuki’s ten-years-older brother he never once mentioned, is quite forward and ebullient, ordering Tooru to serve him lunch, then taking her out for gyoza when she doesn’t respond (due to Yuki telling him to check his rudeness). Turns out Ayame didn’t come to meet Tooru. He heard that Yuki interacted with Akito at school, and was checking in on him, knowing the terror he feels around Akito is on a whole other level as the other Soumas.

When he talks about how hard it’s been to reconcile his younger self (who was less interested in connecting with his baby bro) with his older self (who wants to repent for that younger Ayame) Tooru naturally parrots her mother’s advice about parents not knowing how to be parents…until they’re parents. But also the importants of remembering what it was like to be a child, such that as an adult one can empathize with the next generation.

Ayame is impressed with Tooru’s wisdom, and while Tooru doesn’t take credit, she definitely deserves it simply for absorbing every last iota of her mother’s wisdom (not something most kids do) and being able to so effortlessly apply it to others in order to sooth their troubles.

But as much as she might want Yuki and Ayame to close the yawning rift between them, it just doesn’t happen this time around. Part of that is Ayame is usually an unapologetic cad, and has been one since school when he was classmates with Shigure and Hatori.

He’s also possessed of a particularly silver tongue; whenever he broke the rules, either by growing his hair out or getting caught in a pleasure district, he could talk his way out of it with colorful oratory that would either inspire or annoy his foes into submission.

As Ayame and Shigure reminisce—and Yuki and Kyou sit there and stew—once gets the sense that all his bravado and good cheer on the surface is hiding that deep-seated regret for not being there when his little bro needed him most. Even if he was beholden to Akito like everyone else in the clan, shouldn’t he have put everything on the line to save Yuki…even exile or worse?

He didn’t, and that, much more than his salacious past and forwardness with Tooru, probably keeps that rift between the brothers as wide as it is. In the end, Shigure was more of a big brother to him than Ayame, since he at least got Yuki out of that hell.

Luckily for Yuki, Haruhatsu learns that Ayame is hanging around Yuki, and he informs the only one who Ayame listens to (since he’s always loved and admired the guy): Hatori, who shows up to collect Ayame, ending his reign of terror at Casa Shigure. Later at school Yuki makes sure to thank Hatsu.

And yet, just because a rift will never close doesn’t mean it can’t narrow a little. Yuki learning about Ayame’s devotion to Hatori does that somewhat, which Tooru takes as a sign they’re not an entirely hopeless cause.

Fruits Basket – 12 – Someone Scary This Way Comes

This episode starts out so harmlessly…and silly. It’s a new term, Tooru, Yuki, Kyou, and the others are all second years, and the new first year girls are extremely aggressive in making their existence known to Yuki. Tooru is targeted as an “easy mark” by first year boys, and Kyou scares them off with a move that hilariously befuddles her. New first years Momiji and Haruhatsu brazenly flout the dress code: Momiji by wearing half of a girls’ uni; Haru with jewelry and white-over-black hair.

They are immediately singled out by StuCo President Takei Makoto, who seems like a character from another show, even if FB is not above slapstick. This bespectacled dingus has a thing for Yuki, and his two nearly identical female lieutenants are soon won over by Momiji’s cuteness, while Haruhatsu proves he didn’t illegally die his hair by showing him his pubes in the men’s room.

Unfortunately for this half the episode Tooru is just kind of off in the background as all these Soumas bicker and test authority. I’m well aware Tooru was not always the focus of the source material and in some cases was totally absent as the cast expanded, but the broad goofy comedy on display here doesn’t really make a strong case for keeping her out of the anime spotlight.

Tooru does not play a small role in the second half, when she’s confronted by none other than Souma family head, Akito (voiced by Sakamoto Maaya in her best honey-poison imperiousness). Tooru is caught totally off guard by the sudden and very casual encounter, and Akito never says a single thing I am inclined to either take at face value or believe.

The one person Yuki doesn’t want near Akito less than himself is Tooru, so he comes to her rescue, only to be utterly neutralized by Akito, who after all threw him in a dark room and psychologically tortured him for years until Shigure finally put a stop to it by letting Yuki live with him.

So it’s up to Space Cadet Tooru to rescue Yuki-hime, demonstrating quicker thinking than would usually be expected of her in explaining an action that could’ve cost someone else their life (shoving Akito away from Yuki). In the moment, she knew Yuki was in pain, and she did what she had to do to stop it.

In his report to Hatori about the car ride home, Shigure says Akito would later call Tooru “ugly” and not a threat to him, assured that one day Yuki would come crawling back, citing his fear of him as proof. But Akito seems like the kind of person whose threat assessments vary from day to day, or mood to mood. In any case, Tooru is far from safe, nor is Yuki.

Still, Tooru tries to refocus a clearly traumatized Yuki by joining a big ol’ badminton game with the gang. She doesn’t want to waste, or let others waste, the precious time they have, and she has no illusions about that time being infinite, or even indefinite. Something cold could come out of the shadows and freeze these poor warm people and warm life in which they’ve never been happier. But not today. Today, for a little while, they’ll forget their fears and have fun volleying a shuttle around.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 12 (Fin) – The War Continues

Last week ended on a hopeful note, but there was still a lot that could go wrong with Kaguya and Miyuki’s big night at the fireworks festival. And what do you know, it does! Just as she’s ready to head out, one of the butlers not named Hayasaka vetoes her outing as too dangerous, so she has to text Chika that she can’t go, and she’s sorry.

Kaguya enters heretofore unplumbed depths of dejection, but Hayasaka tells her to regain her Kaguya attitude that would have normally had her trying to sneak out by now. Hayasaka aids in all the ways she can by posting a tweet to Kaguya’s feed that Miyuki picks up on, then disguising herself as Kaguya so she can swing Tarzan’s Jane-style over the wall and to a waiting taxi.

While getting out of bed and sneaking out of the house was a big win, Kaguya still has to get to the fireworks before they’re over…and she isn’t able to succeed. The taxi is stuck in traffic, and there’s only so much ground she can cover in yukata and geta. She’s able to glimpse the fireworks closer than ever before—between buildings—but by the time she reaches the meeting spot, the display has concluded and the crowds are cleaning up after themselves (what a concept!) and heading home.

Of course, all this time, we know that Miyuki has been racing around on his bike, attempting to intercept Kaguya on her ill-fated solo mission to reach the fireworks. He manages to pick the right alley where she’s chosen to cry, then takes her by the arm and tells her he’s going to make sure she sees some fireworks. He accomplishes this with help from Yuu and Chika, who are waiting with the same taxi  Kaguya took before, driven by one of the Four Ramen Kings.

The driver takes liberties with the speed limit and gets them under the Aqua Line towards Umihotaru, where the fireworks display will still be going on for another twenty minutes. There’s an action thriller flavor to their undersea tunnel trip, and an ultimate feeling of triumph when they emerge at the other side to a sky full of gorgeous fireworks. Only now, that she’s closer than ever to those fireworks, all Kaguya can watch is Miyuki’s face, and all she can hear is the beating of her own heart. Daaaaaw.

While the fireworks night turned out to be a great victory for everyone, pulled from the jaws of defeat numerous times, the real proof in the pudding of whether Kaguya and Miyuki’s relationship has grown would come in the aftermath. We get a glimpse of that as the new school term begins, and both of them are so bashful and self-conscious that every time they try to approach each other, they end up sailing by like ships in the night—or two dogfighting planes.

Again and again they swoop by, with Chika eventually getting into the spirit of things with an “asterisk” before Yuu arrives and unwittingly makes it a “triangle.” Kaguya and Miyuki then banish both Yuu and Chika (“shooting them down”, as it were) in order to get the privacy they need to finally confront each other about last night.

Kaguya just wants to thank him for everything he did, but as they finally meet and end up bumping into a kind of half-hug, her broomstick juts into his chest, and she says the very words he feared she’d say as an appraisal of his “egotistical” behavior and “cringeworthy lines” the other night: “it must be painful.” Of course, she was talking about the broomstick, not his behavior. But he runs off anyway, and Kaguya gives chase, and henceforth everything is pretty much back to normal.

Surely other situations will come in the future where the two will be able to hang out and do fun stuff and experience moments of beauty and honesty together—but due to their stubborn pride and persistent self-consciousness, any such interactions will only come after much hand-wringing and hesitation. Perhaps, given enough time, it will get easier. But as long as they think something that manifestly isn’t a war is, it’ll remain akin to pulling teeth. But hey, a romantic can hope!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 10 – Recovering From Fevergate

Splashed across a tabloid spread, “the sleepover incident” has created fresh and lingering tension between Kaguya and Miyuki, which should go without saying: it was a major step forward, even if it was utterly innocent. Still, neither is prepared to admit the incident for what it was, or their frustration with how it turned out, resulting in heightened passive aggression.

Things boil over when there’s only one slice of cake left (Yuu ate the second), leading to an epic, hour-long battle of wills with the two insisting the other eat it, even bringing up memories that make each of them have to turn away and blush about. The eventually come around to feeding each other simultaneously, but before they can do so Chika comes in to break it up, eat both bites, leading to a loss for both of them.

In the next segment, Kaguya seeks advice from Kashiwagi, while Miyuki goes to Yuu for advice on how to resolve the issue “for a friend.” Both tell their sides of the story, and each of their confidants is outraged by the injustice, leading to both Kaguya and Miyuki qualifying those events with other factors.

By the end of it, both Kashiwagi and Yuu agree (albeit quite independently) that if nothing happened and they both properly apologized, there is nothing left to be angry about. Of course, neither knows that the reason Kaguya is upset is that Miyuki didn’t even try to lay a finger on her.

Miyuki confronts her in the hall and says that he actually, did, but it was only one finger on her lips. Sufficiently satisfied (not to mention elated beyond belief), Kaguya returns the favor by touching his lips with her finger, making them even. This is how despite starting out in a state of tug-of-cake-carnage, both come out winners.

Now fully made up and back to normal, the term ends and Summer Vacation is about to begin. Both Kaguya and Miyuki are relying on Chika to use as a co-ed conduit to hanging out with each other without exposing how they feel (even though, if they’re honest, they already did that with the lip-touching).

Unfortunately for them, and as Kaguya quietly predicted, attempting to control Chika into getting your way is a lot tougher than you’d think. She’s off to Hawaii for a week in the Summer, and thus won’t have time for any other trip of that length, so she’s pretty much out. That’s when Yuu chimes in, wanting to make memories with his senpai.

That gives Miyuki an opening to suggest the end-of-Summer fireworks festival, which all four agree upon (Chika and Kaguya with particular enthusiasm). The only problem is, the August 24 date doesn’t work for Chika, who’ll be at a “tomato festival in Spain.”

No matter—Kaguya and Miyuki are committed to not wasting the vacation without ever hanging out with each other, and now they’ve found a new willing, and more malleable co-ed conduit to do so in Yuu. Could such a scenario provide the necessary conditions for either of them to move past feverish bed-sharing and coy lip-touching? We will see…

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 09 – Their First Sleepover

A typhoon that shuts down the trains brings good fortune for Kaguya, if only she’d simply use it and not make things more complicated. However, asking Miyuki if he wants a ride, thus initiating a “car date”, would be breaking her code, so she waits for him to ask for a ride instead.

Her hesitation ends up opening other opportunities for Miyuki. First, Chika offers to share her taxi, and Kaguya has to use her fear of lightning stealing her belly button to usher her out of the StuCo office. But then the trains start running when the typhoon dies down, further threatening the car date.

Kaguya resorts to sabotaging Miyuki’s phone battery, but he still doesn’t ask for a ride, and when her phone rings, she panics and runs outside where Hayasaka and the car are waiting.

Still, Kaguya waits outside, in the lashing wind rain, for Miyuki to come outside, get down on his knees, and beg for a ride. Instead, he races out of the school on his bike, resigned to get soaked but intent on getting to work as quickly as possible. He utterly drenches Kaguya in his wake.

The next day, Kaguya has a terrible fever and is consigned to bed. Someone from the StuCo has to visit her to drop off printouts, and Miyuki leaves himself open until Chika brings up the fact Kaguya talks and acts like a baby when she’s sick. Suddenly, Miyuki is motivated to be the one.

But Chika decides they’ll determine who goes with a game of Concentration, and she cheats numerous times, so intent she is on seeing Kaguya in her cutest state. All the time, I was wondering why Miyuki didn’t simply use his authority as president to decree that he was going.

Once he hears from Yuu that Kaguya was waiting outside for someone and starts to remember drenching someone, Miyuki does what he needs to win the card game, while shaming Chika into oblivion; Chika leaves the office the way Yuu usually does: pondering death.

Miyuki arrives to find Hayasaka disguised as a maid, and she escorts him to Kaguya’s room where she’s ransacking the place looking for fireworks. Chika was right: Kaguya isn’t just a baby, but completely off when she’s sick. Hayasaka explains that her ego is being suppressed by the fever, leaving only the id.

She then leaves Miyuki along with Kaguya, making sure to drive into his head the fact that they won’t be disturbed, the walls are soundproof, and Kaguya won’t remember anything he says or does while in her feverish state…BUT tells him not to do anything appropriate, wink-wink.

Miyuki is on his best behavior, but the fever-drunk Kaguya is the one who ends up doing something inappropriate. She opens her covers, pulls Miyuki into the bed, and won’t hear of him leaving her side. Miyuki is exhausted anyway, and so falls asleep.

Kaguya wakes up before him, the fever passed and of sound mind, and completely freaks out when she finds Miyuki beside her. She rouses him from sleep, shoves him out of the bed and her room, and asks a coy Hayasaka “how far she got” with Miyuki while she was feverish.

Thus ends the least romantic first sleepover either Kaguya or Miyuki could have asked for; one in which one of them wasn’t really all there, and the other was rightly very careful not to take advantage. I liked how this entire episode told one continuous story, though I doubt there will be lasting repercussions from the “sleepover” due to the unique circumstances involved.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 08 – Study Long, Study Wrong

Three stories this week! Story the First: Kaguya encounters a cute visitor who she remembers is really Miyuki’s little sister Kei, StuCo treasurer of the middle school division. Kaguya gets it into her head (deep, deep into her head) that if she suceeds in nurturing a close friendship with Kei, she’ll look at her as a sister, giving her the familial love she craves and bringing her closer to Miyuki.

Heartbreak strikes when it turns out Chika (whose imouto is in Kei’s class) is a shitload closer to Kei than Kaguya could ever imagine. But the true twist is that the end, when we learn Kei is actually infatuated with Kaguya, and laments to her oblivious bro that she wasn’t able to close the distance between them. Thus Kei loses.

Story the Second:  With final exams approaching, both Miyuki and Kaguya engage in elaborate games of lies and deception, both of them absolutely determined to claim the top student ranking with their grades. They manage to convince Chika that she doesn’t need to study to do well, but neither of them particularly care one way or another about Chika’s fate, only their own.

When the scores and rankings are posted, Miyuki has prevailed once again, with Kaguya finishing a close second. Internally, Kaguya wants to roll around in the pool of blood that threatens to shoot out of her eyes, but she keeps her composure and congratulates the President, noting that he must be pleased.

At the same time, Miyuki claims that he can’t feel any joy over such a close and hard-fought victory, only relief…but when he retires to the men’s room it’s a different story, as he’s so overjoyed he starts shadowboxing for no reason…as one does. Winner: Miyuki.

Story the Third takes place a week before the finals. Kaguya is aware that the next exam Yuu fails will force him to repeat the grade, a black mark against the honor of the StuCo she as its veep cannot allow. To that end, she grabs his hand and spirits him away to a dark supply closet where she commits to making sure he studies enough not to fail, on her honor as a Shinomiya.

Yuu is initially as terrified of Kaguya as usual—she makes him do the two things he fears most, after all: studying, and eating tiny dried sardines—but when two classmates spot the two in the library and look primed to spread weird rumors, Kaguya stands up for Yuu, telling them she doesn’t judge people by what others say, only by her personal experiences with those people.

Yuu ends up passing, and rising a number of spots in the rankings (up from second to last), but Kaguya is still furious that he only barely passed after all the hard work she put in. Miyuki drops his guard in assuring Yuu that while Kaguya may seem cold-hearted, she is someone who can always be relied upon to follow through. For his unsolicited flattery of his opponent in the War of Love, Miyuki loses the round.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 07 – Two Pyramids

Once again Miyuki is relied upon by a fellow student for romantic advice, only this time, it’s something he’s confident he can handle: how to hold a girl’s hand. I mean, he has shared an umbrella with one already, no?”  Miyuki makes this all about economics, urging the boy to get a job so he can afford surgery for his sweaty hands, training for a boater’s license (which Miyuki himself inexplicably has), and rent a boat on which to introduce his hand to Kashiwagi’s.

Her “Love sense” going off, Detective Chika intervenes and offers the much simpler and much more affordable advice of “do your best,” which the lad takes with gratitude and ends up succeeding, sweaty palms and all. The eavesdropping Kaguya, not wanting Miyuki’s work to spoil her summer plans for him, offers side-splitting commentary during the advice session, while Miyuki loses the round because thanks to Chika he lost a potential part-time recruit.

From there we transition to a budget session between Miyuki and Yuu, with the latter going off on various anti-youth rants fueled by his jealousy for the sports club members getting all the girls. The two main status pyramids at the academy are that of economic background (how rich your parents are) and clubs (with anime club being below “no club at all” in precedence).

Miyuki is just trying to keep Yuu focused on crunching the numbers, but also says that participating in a cultural club is possible in the StuCo, as Chika (board games) and Kaguya (Japansese archery) are both club participants. That sends Yuu on a different rant, as he describes Kaguya’s flat chest as perfect for archery, compared to the bouncing Chika would have to contend with.

Little does he know both girls are right behind him. Chika carefully crafts a paper fan with which to beat Yuu senseless. When Yuu heads home to prepare a will, the girls start pulling at Miyuki, urging him to join their respective clubs. Even though he ultimately has to turn both down (his part-time job precludes clubs), he lets them tug at his arms for a bit, because it’s nice to be popular. This nets him a win to cancel out the first segment’s loss.

The third act doesn’t declare a decision either way for Miyuki or Kaguya, but the latter ends up embroiled in a fit of uncontrollable, boisterous laughter every time Chika says “wiener” in relation to her dog. While Miyuki has made great strides in her social interaction, she’s still a grade schooler when it comes to dirty words (or those that can be construed as such).

Once Chika realizes every time she says “wiener” Kaguya can’t help but roar with laughter, she’s already won; after all, she loves hearing Kaguya laugh, and the louder the better. She takes it up a notch when Miyuki arrives, threatening to make him say the word “wiener”, causing Kaguya to debase herself in front of her beloved President.

When Chika fails every time due to verbal blocks from Kaguya, she gives up and loudly protests that Miyuki “won’t give her wiener.” The resulting torrent of double entendres mortifies Miyuki, who quickly flees, while Yuu listens in on Chika’s continued liberal use of the word “wiener” from the other side of the door, his nose bleeding profusely. Winner: Chika.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 06 – Glamurderous Intent

This week we finally meet StuCo treasurer Ishigami Yuu, the sheltered, skittish yin to Chika’s gregarious, ebullient yang. Miyuki appointed him treasurer due to his considerable skills in financial management, and while he’s not often around, the work he does mostly at home keeps the StuCo solvent. So Miyuki is determined to discourage Yuu from suddenly resigning.

Yuu wants to resign because he has the complete wrong idea about Kaguya, mistaking her intense, imperious gaze for murderous intent she not only intends to act on, but has acted on before, and more than once. Matters aren’t helped when Kaguya scares the shit out of both guys by entering the office with a bloody knife and bloodstained tunic.

Turns out she’s just costume-fitting for the drama club, but she reminds Yuu—who doesn’t know better than to take her threats of pain and death 100% seriously—never to blab to Miyuki about hiding cafe coupons under the desk, hoping to lure Miyuki into a date. She also warns him not to quit the StuCo, so Yuu’s fear of being killed for resigning outweighs his fear of staying.

So the first segment is a bit ol’ loss for Yuu. In the second, Chika breaks out a book of psychological tests that determine who you like; a book Kaguya knew Chika would eventually acquire and read the whole thing in advance so that her answers wouldn’t subconsciously indicate her love for the President.

Miyuki also suspects Chika’s questions are a trap, and so gives a dishonest answer that indicates he’s a siscon, while Yuu’s answer indicates Stockholm Syndrome. Chika’s final question throws both Kaguya and Miyuki off, since it’s not from the book but online, and they both inadvertently answer honestly.

In this instance, Miyuki is determined to be the loser since his answer to gather an entire field of flowers indicates he harbors a similarly ridiculous amount of love for Kaguya, compared to Kaguya’s more modest bouquet. That being said, I don’t put a lot of stock in Chika’s unscientific tests, skewed as they are toward romantic intention.

In the final segment, Kaguya’s maid Hayasaka (who is apparently also a student there but has a gal-like persona with her friends) wants to give Miss “Swans don’t need ornamentation” Kaguya-sama some glam, starting with some gel nail polish with tasteful rhinestones on the ring fingers. Kaguya wants Miyuki to notice them and compliment her, but is also worried he’ll think they’re frivolous or silly.

Turns out he seemingly doesn’t notice the nails at all, even when she waves them inches from his eyes. The truth is, he immediately notices she’s being fashionable, but is worried about whether to respond, and how, assuming it’s another trap that will expose his feelings for her or simply to make him look foolish. He knows an improper compliment can be sexual harassment.

Yuu doesn’t make giving anyone compliments a particularly good idea when he correctly guesses that Chika has changed hair conditioners based on the smell, an observation Chika comes right out and calls “creepy”, leading Yuu to slink away wishing for death to come.

Once the day passes and Kaguya hears nothing from Miyuki, she starts to head home, on the verge of tears. But Miyuki, finally deciding what to do, races to her side in his bike, mentioning the nails, but coming just short of calling them “cute” (he only gets “cu-cu-cu” before chickening out and racing off).

Kaguya is frustrated he didn’t finish his thought, but the mere fact he noticed her nails after all, and was so bashful about it, makes her happy beyond belief, not to mention the winner of the segment.

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