Citrus – 03

Yuzu doesn’t understand why she has such a crush on Mei, just that she does, but she knows the only way to move forward is to make those feelings known. To do that, she needs to be on better terms with her, and the universe provides. When the chairman collapses in his office, the first person to find him and call an ambulance isn’t Mei, it’s Yuzu.

Mei is grateful, and lets Yuzu call her by her first name (even if she doesn’t reciprocate), and Gramps even reverses his decision to expel Yuzu. His health scare has made him re-evaluate a lot of things he’d taken hard lines on, be it the new granddaughter he never asked for in Yuzu, or the decision to make Mei live with him.

Mei then returns to Yuzu and her mom’s house, but it couldn’t come at a worse time, considering Yuzu’s feelings for her aren’t very sisterly. Yuzu seeks clarity in a yuri manga (which Harumin sees and jokingly pretends to reinact the action within its pages), while Yuzu’s mom makes things worse by buying a double bed for the sisters.

Obviously, living with one’s (presumably unrequited) crush is not easy, and I can’t help but feel for Yuzu here.

That’s not the end of her torment, as when bedtime comes and she finds herself unable to sleep, she tries to steal a touch of Mei’s hair or skin, and Mei gets out of bed and unrolls a futon, claiming it’s too hot with both of them under the covers.

When Yuzu brings up Mei kissing her, Mei coldly dismisses it as merely a tactic to shut her up, demonstrating its effectiveness by coming in oh-so-close only to withhold a kiss. She states she has “no interest” in Yuzu, or in getting closer, hence her unwillingness to call her by her first name. Yuzu goes to sleep in the bed alone, angry, and in tears.

Adding insult to injury, since Mei is the rule-obsessed class president, Yuzu is unable to hang out with Harumi after school without both of them getting punished by having to clean the bathroom. When that’s done, Yuzu finds a note from Mei calling her to the chairman’s office.

Yuzu is excited by the note, but when she arrives, Mei has her yuri manga, and warns her to dispose of it lest rumors crop up. Yuzu snaps, pushes Mei onto the desk, kisses her, then breaks into tears.

If Mei is uncomfortable here, but the fact is she kissed Yuzu first, and that’s how Yuzu’s crush on her developed; they wouldn’t be on that desk without Mei’s earlier antics. Yuzu knows she can’t go back now that what’s done has been done, but gets off Mei, apologizes for being such a bad sister, and runs off.

Her running off, and Mei lingering in the office, doesn’t go unnoticed by Mei’s friend, right-hand woman, and enforcer Himeko, who immediately suspects something is very amiss. Just as Yuzu and Mei are trying to sort things out, Himeko will no doubt insinuate herself into the situation.

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Citrus – 02

While all of Yuzu’s thoughts are focused on what Mei’s kiss was all about, she falls into a fountain and takes Mei with her, and ends up in an even more inimate situation when they bathe together. Yuzu thinks about how Mei’s skin feels, Mei is pressing her against the wall, as if she could read Yuzu’s mind. However, it’s too much contact too quickly; Yuzu is again flustered by her little sister.

At school, Yuzu continues to make no effort to follow the dress code, and notices many of the girls are paired up, holding hands and flirting. Harumi says since most of them are already engaged, it’s more a matter of “being in heat” and fooling around while they still can; lust, not love. Their chat is interrupted when Harumi notices the chairman, Mei’s grandfather, is at the gates.

Yuzu brashly approaches him and calls him “gramps”, but he’s having none of it, turning to Mei and reaming her out for allowing “such a fool” to be near school grounds. Yuzu sticks up for her sister, but is banished from the grounds. Either Gramps didn’t get the memo about the marriage, or worse, he doesn’t care; doesn’t see Yuzu as real family.

While sneaking back in, Yuzu and Harumi spot Mei’s betrothed in the parking lot, and overhear him talking to his girlfriend about how he doesn’t really care about Mei, and will only string her along because her family is rich. It’s an awfully specific phone convo for a guy to have out in the open just when Yuzu happens to hear it, but it also shows what a jerk this guy is.

Yuzu tells Mei about her fiancee’s infidelity, but Mei, not surprisingly, already knows, and, well, she’s not fine with it, but she clearly seems resigned to proceeding regardless. She also dismisses Yuzu’s “big sister” status in this issue, since she’s never kissed anyone and thus can’t possibly understand. Yuzu only seems to make things worse the next day when she hijacks a school assembly to tell everyone how she saw the teacher forcing himself on Mei.

That little stunt leads to the chairman sending men to pick Mei up from Yuzu and her Mom’s and having her live with him from now on; Yuzu’s mom says Mei didn’t resist. When Yuzu confronts Mei, Mei pretends nothing is amiss. When Yuzu presses, Mei tells her she’s been ordered to stay away, and that’s how it is.

Yuzu doesn’t stay away. She can’t sleep in the empty room without Mei, knowing there’s clearly something bothering her (what with the crying in her sleep) and she can’t stand feeling partially responsible for her mom’s pain. So she goes to Mei’s grandfather’s mansion and confronts her again, bringing up the pained looks and cries for her father in her sleep.

Mei gets violent, tossing Yuzu on the bed and tearing her blouse. As tears fall from Mei’s eyes to Yuzu’s face, Yuzu gets up and takes hold of Mei, saying “I’m with you now!”, which seems to have an effect. Alas, their grandfather enters the room and expels Yuzu right then and there.

While shopping with Harumi (who is in Full Glamorous Gal Mode outside of school), a very forlorn Yuzu finally tells her friend about her and Mei being related and her expulsion (though doesn’t mention how Mei has kissed her and pushed her into walls and onto beds).

Harumi tells her that despite Mei’s demeanor Yuzu’s feelings on wanting to protect her are probably getting through to her, but that gets Yuzu thinking about what her feelings for Mei truly are, and whether they’re love, something she’s never experienced before. It certainly seems that way.

Citrus – 01 (First Impressions)

The flashy, glamorous Aihara Yuzu tries to make it clear to the outside world that she’s a gal who gets around, but has never actually been in love or even kissed anyone.

This is hardly a new story, but what makes things a little more interesting is that when she transfers to a new, all-girls school where she sticks out like a sore thumb, the hard-nosed student council president Aihara Mei turns out to be her new, slightly younger stepsister.

The knowledge that Mei is betrothed to an “elite teacher” is seemingly confirmed when Yuzu accidentally catches Mei and the teacher making out in a secluded spot; Yuzu is so flustered she flees in a not-so-inconspicuous manner.

In any case, her insistence on dolling herself up and flaunting the school dress code in every way possible brand her as a delinquent in the eyes of the mostly drab, sheltered student body (one exception being Taniguchi Harumi, a “gal in disguise”).

While Yuzu may talk the talk, Mei seems to walk the walk, and Mei essentially sends Yuzu’s perfect maze of deception crashing down around her when Yuzu tries to force Mei into talking to her by bringing up her sucking face with the hot teacher.

Mei reacts by pinning Yuzu down and giving her a long, deep kiss with tongue before leaving the room, telling her “that’s what a kiss is like.” Yuzu’s first kiss is thus not only with a girl, but with someone she just learned is her “little” sister…and someone she butted heads with the moment they met.

Mei has also demonstrated beyond doubt that while Yuzu possesses all the outward trappings of boy-crazy gal, like Jon Snow, she really knows nothing, while Mei has actually experienced a measure of love and desire.

Decent yuri anime are few and far between, but this one at least shows glimmers of promise with its full-length episode format, attractive visuals, and a complex (if somewhat contrived) scenario that should be fraught with similarly complicated emotions on the part of both leads as their relationship evolves beyond the sizing-up stage.

Classroom of the Elite – 02

I’m liking the uneasy rapport that has developed between Ayanokouji and Horitika; coincidence after coincidence brought them “together” in the opener, but they’ve consciously chosen to stay together, despite his surface apathy and her surface hostility—providing a nice contrast to Kushida’s saccharine affability.

Horitika isn’t interested in jumping up a level to Class C. She wants to be in Class A as soon as possible. If that means gathering a study group of the three most egregious misfits, so be it. She assigns Ayanokouji to the thankless task of gathering said misfits…and he immediately fails.

So he calls Kushida, who is all too happy to convince the three guys to attend the study group…if she can be in it as well. That caveat proves too repugnant to Horitika, who is awesomely resplendent in her text-and-voice-based petulance upon reacting to Ayanokouji’s method of completing the task she gave him.

Nevertheless, the group is assembled, with Kushida…and Horikita blows it up almost as quickly as Ayanokouji failed to assemble them in the first place. Unable to temper her aloof manner with people, and so focused on her goal of Class A, she doesn’t bother adapting to the various personalities she has to deal with, and so they all bail. She then accuses Kushida of “sabotage”, and Kushida runs off on the verge of tears.

And so, Ayanokouji finds himself with the contact info of not one but two comely lasses, and hasn’t the words, written or spoken, for either of them. So he goes out to the vending machines…and sees something he shouldn’t.

That something is the Student Council President verbally abusing his little sister…Horikita. Ayanokouji hears a tone of voice from his classmate he never had before, as she pleads for her brother to give her a chance…but all she is to the guy is a manifestation of shame; a black mark; a Class D sister.

Then he puts his hands on her and Ayanokouji has seen an heard enough, finally taking action by making use the strength Horikita noticed in his physique at poolside. He claims he acquired it and his fighting skills through “piano, calligraphy, tea ceremony”. It would be most impressive if that were true, but it’s clear he’s hiding something (We also learn he scored exactly 50 in all subjects on his entrance exam).

Like the first, this episode explored the theme announced in the episode title, a quote from some old dead guy, in this case, how “it takes a great talent and skill to conceal one’s talent and skill.” That certainly seems refer to our boy Ayanokouji as well as Kushida, who also comes off as someone holding their cards close.

As for Horikita, her natural tendency to keep people away, assuming they’ll hold her back, seems doomed to backfire on her every time. Just as the class had to come together to attain high enough scores to stave off expulsions for another week and possibly gain points back, Horikita will find more success on her path to Class A by learning to work with others, utilizing their hidden skills talents, and possibly discovering a few of her own in the process.

Kakegurui – 03

Upon watching the “official match” between Mary and porcelain-faced council member Nishinotouin Yuriko, Yumeko becomes excited at the prospect of the chouhan bakuchi style game they play, in which swords are used rather than dice, and how they land determines the distribution of chips to a wild extent.

It’s not a gamble for the weary, but as Yumeko is a compulsive gambler, it’s perfect. However, if I didn’t know better, I’d say there was more to her facing off against Yuriko than simply wanting to play or win, and that gets back to Saotome’s humiliating, devastating loss to Yuriko in the episode’s opening moments.

Yumeko takes exception to Yuriko “showing a weakened human a glimmer of hope than beating them into despair” and calls the councilperson a loan shark, the lowest of the low, and a piece of shit to her face. She even messes with the characters in her distinguished name to show that her favorite numbers are right there, but missing a couple in the middle, a “perfect name for an airhead.”

This is Yumeko exercising psychological warfare on a highly accomplished and studied opponent—and largely succeeding. And while there is a practical purpose for getting Yuriko riled up, I don’t doubt Yumeko also takes satisfaction in putting Yuriko in her place, suggesting she won’t let people like her have their way with livestock unchallenged.

Add to that the fact that, naturally, Yumeko’s opponent is cheating (with the dealer using magnets to manipulate one—but only one—of the metal swords), and it looks like this gamble will take the same shape as the previous two, with Yumeko prevailing at the last second and Yuriko’s mask finally cracking and breaking.

However, we get a different outcome, and notably no overt “gamblingasm”. Instead, Council President Momobami enters with two other council members, to oversee the result of the sword toss, which is something neither Yumeko or Yuriko expected, and puts Yumeko 310 million yen (over $2 million) in debt to Yuriko.

Momobami’s presents makes Yumeko suspect she was not only the victim of magnets, but a “badger”, and that this was a multifaceted cheat that may have required the ignorance of both players. Yuriko may have won, but she certainly doesn’t look or seem to feel like she won. Meanwhile, despite her immense new debt, all Yumeko is focused on is facing off against Momobami, which is her right as newly-minted livestock.

As for the hazing and bullying that results from her initiation into the livestock, it runs off Yumeko like rain from a fireman’s hat; when they call her the common cat name “Mike”, she simply gets on her knees and starts talking and washing herself like a cat, completely immune to the students barbs and, on the contrary, scaring them off with her bizarre antics. Here’s hoping this is a preamble to Yumeko becoming an inspiration to all livestock.

Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta? – 01 (First Impressions)

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It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve watched a long-titled school quartet rom-com—KonoSuba doesn’t count b/c it took place entirely in a fantasy world (and didn’t have any rom; just com).

NetoYome, which I’m shortening this to for now, has a distinct game world and real world, and the group of four close friends and colleagues in the online RPG Legendary Age are actually quite distant in the real world…at least at first.

That distance is there despite all four members of the Alley Cat Guild going to the same school. It’s that intrigue; that sense of dual personalities, one of which is concealed by the anonymity of the net, that provides appeal initially.

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Of course, we realize before Nishimura Hideki who his fellow guild members are in real life. The shy girl who doesn’t show her face is clearly Tamaki Ako; enough seems a bit off about Student Council President Goshouin Kyou to suspect her, and Segawa, turning her nose up at Hideki’s public otakuism, is clearly being a hypocrite.

The last hint needed is that Hideki once confessed to a cute catgirl who turned out to be a guy in real life, making him swear off falling for girls in the game until he got over it and realized it doesn’t really matter what gender people are in the real world, becaue LA isn’t real. As long as their in-game alias is cute, he’s fine with it.

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Of course, things change when the guildmaster Apricot announces an offline get-together, and the four classmates come face-to-face with each other and learn that rather than three guys and a girl, their party is actually three girls and a guy.

Despite all the telegraphing it’s a legitimately exciting moment, whether it’s Ako suddenly realizing it’s okay to act towards Hideki the way she does in-game, to Kyou being able to discern who is who, to Segawa’s hypocrisy being exposed, and having no defense.

She is who she is; it doesn’t change the fact she still thinks Hideki is gross!

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In fact, all four members are who they are; and that’s why they’re so likable; they’re genuine. When it comes down to it, even the tsundere Segawa doesn’t deny her nature. She won’t date anyone in the real world despite getting offers because it would take away from what she truly enjoys: playing LA with the others.

I was also touched when Ako voiced her relief and joy that she can consider her comrades real friends she can talk to, as to this point she’s had no friends (neither has Kyou). Or Hideki telling Segawa he much prefers who she is to her school persona. Or Hideki hardly being able to believe his luck that this time the cute waifu he chose in-game is actually a cute real girl offline.

It started a little slow (the RPG action early on was pretty lame), but NetoYome gradually grew on me. It’s cute, it’s earnest, and it’s got lots of heart and rom-com potential.

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 12 (Fin)

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Going into the finale it looked like Yamadas still had quite a bit of work to do in order to gather the seven witches for a ceremony before Yamazaki and get his Shiraishi Urara back. So I was surprised by how relatively easy a time he had of resolving things.

Yet it wasn’t surprising in a bad way, because there were still blanks that needed filling for some important players, and in getting filled, they paved the way for ultimate Yamada’s success, which turned out to be good for everyone.

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Take Rika: we were never privy to the source of her absolute loyalty to Yamazaki, until now, and it turns out to be pretty clear-cut: Yamazaki was the only one who remembered her and knew she was coming to school and studying at all. With this new info in mind, it makes sense that she wouldn’t do anything to threaten the fortunes of the only person who knows who she is.

But here’s the thing: Yamazaki is no longer the only person. Yamada, Nene, and Tamaki also fill that role, and three people knowing of your existence doubtless feels better than just one.

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So Rika agrees to help Yamada, if he can bring Leona back to school so she can wipe her memory. Rika is not only pragmatic, but proud of her position as seventh witch, and takes her duties seriously. Miyamura has no idea what business Yamada has with his shut-in sister, but Leona agrees to come in, and we learn more that drives this story to its resolution: she and Yamazaki were once the entirety of the Supernatural Club.

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When he became Student Council president (likely a wish to the seven witches), his memories of Leona were taken away. But like Urara with Yamada, while the memories are gone, the feelings that go with them are not. Thus, when Leona passes Yamazaki in the hall, he tears up, and because he’s a sharp lad, he realizes why, and why Yamada isn’t his enemy any longer.

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Nene and Tamaki then manage to capture Asuka-in-Urara’s-body, employing all the other witches in an ambush…

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…While Yamada drags Miyamura (a student council member) to Asuka’s to retrieve a very scared and confused Urara who, I’ll restate, still possesses feelings for Yamada, even though she doesn’t remember him.

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The seven witches assemble, and though Asuka manages to escape, Yamazaki tells her to stand down, as he intends to observe, not disrupt, Yamada’s ceremony. Yamada stands in the middle, and time stops, or rather slows way down, just for him and Rika.

Before he closes his eyes and prays for his wish, Yamada asks Rika if she’s happy she ended up with a witch power. Rika states that she mostly is, but doesn’t discount the difficulty of bearing such a power, and isn’t looking forward to foisting them on a successor when she graduates.

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With that, Yamada makes his wish, and while they prank him a little when he returns to the supernatural club room, everyone’s memory is back. But as they celebrate, he elaborates: he didn’t wish to restore their memories; that was just a by-product of wishing for the witch powers to disappear entirely. After all, thanks to him, the witches no longer had the problems that led to them receiving their powers, and with no more powers, Rika and the others don’t have to worry about burdening successors.

As for Urara, she apologizes for losing her memory and rejecting Yamada, even though she didn’t really have any choice. She also assumes his confession was false, but he sets her straight by repeating that he loves her and wants to go out with her. She, in turn, reveals that the “someone else” she said she liked was really Yamada; she just couldn’t remember him at the time. So there you have it: a tidy happy ending that’s both logical and satisfying.

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 11

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With each week comes fresh reveals of more secrets regarding the school witches, and as Yamada learns the Supernatural Club is slowly drifting apart without him, the latest revelation is most important of all: when all seven witches are assembled, a ceremony can be performed that will grant someone any wish they want.

I would imagine the wish Yamada would choose is for Urara to continue to be happy and surrounded by friends…and with him by her side, if it’s possible. But her happiness is paramount.

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I said Yamada was down last week, but not out, and now we see why: while many people have had their memories wiped, one of them, Nene, bursts in to protest him copying her own charm power onto her, causing her to love him.

In the act of kissing him, she cancels out the memory loss, and Yamada and Tamaki explain the situation. At the same time, the eyes of both Rika and Yamazaki are constantly on Yamada as he struggles to fix things.

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Their threats don’t faze Yamada, however, as he’s on a mission, and his new circle consisting of himself, Tamaki, and Nene makes for an interesting combo. The three agree to gather the seven witches, restore their memories, and convince them to perform the ceremony before their opponents Yamazaki, Rika, and Mikoto can get to them.

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In intricate game of chess ensues, full of moves and countermoves and looking several moves ahead, something that without Tamaki and Nene’s counsel, might put Yamada at a disadvantage.

But even though Mikoto keeps him from kissing Urara (who is now at a point where she wants him to kiss her), and Yamazaki proposes a plan that will grant Nene’s wish (to be with Yamada), Yamada’s love for Urara and determination to keep her happy and not alone, conquers all the strategy on display, or so it seems.

 

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Just take Tamaki, who saw Nene with Yamazaki and suspects she’s working for him now. But Nene is resigned to the fact no matter what she does, Yamada only has eyes for Urara, so she may as well support and smile with him.

It’s clear beyond doubt now that Nene is in love with Yamada, which is why she suspected she was under her own charm spell despite having no memories of him. The love, unrelated to the witch power, remained, just as Ushio’s love and devotion to her remained even after she lifted her spell from him.

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Yamada & Co make progress, restoring Maria, Meiko, and Noa with kisses and explaining to them what’s going on, but Rika remains elusive due to her memory-wiping abilities, which leave no trace of her existence in school records or in the minds of anyone at school. Despite how sad that sounds, Rika has no intention of helping Yamada & Co.

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When Mikoto somehow switches bodies with Urara before Yamada can kiss her, Yamada’s at an impasse with the remaining two witches. With little time left, he storms into Yamazaki’s office, grabs him by the scruff (not sure why Mikoto didn’t follow Yamada there to protect her president) warning he’s not going to give up, no matter how much he screws with him. He vows to go to Mikoto’s house, where Urara is in her body, and kiss her—a task characterized by the prez as easier said than done.

Is Nene actually working for Yamazaki after all? What exactly is Rika’s deal? Can only one wish be fulfilled by the ceremony? What other twists and reveals await us in the final episode? I don’t know, but I look forward to finding out. It’s been a great ride: complex and funny and touching in equal measure.

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 10

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Thanks to Miyamura’s heretofore unmentioned sister (and scissor enthusiast) Leona, Yamada learns the identity of the seventh witch. Leona tells him because she’s amused he’s doing it for love—specifically to undo the future where Urara is all alone again. But there’s a cost to learning the seventh witch’s identity.

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That cost is that Yamada’s memory of the witches—all of them, including Urara—must be wiped, as only President Yamazaki is allowed to know the names of all seven witches. Yamada doesn’t treat it as that big of a deal, especially since his friends and Urara in particular promise to bring him back after his memory wipe. Urara in particular is looking forward to being the first person he kisses, just as she was when they first fell down the steps together.

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Yamada takes his leave from Urara, and even though things still don’t seem that serious, there’s an air of wistfulness and even foreboding to their farewell. That’s amplified significantly when the seventh witch, Saionji Rika, appears, boasting about going commando (like Urara made Yamada go when she was in his body) before placing her hands on his face, then walking off, apparently having done the job.

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Yamada is confused, then, that even though her instructions indicate it will take 24 hours for his memories to fade…they don’t fade. He enters the supernatural club to announce it didn’t work, but none of them know who he is, or rather, they know he’s Yamada, but have no connection to him.

Turns out Rika couldn’t wipe his memories, due to his immunity to witch powers. Instead, she wiped the memory of all his friends, along with all the witches. In other words, Yamada kept Urara out of that lonely future, only to find himself alone.

Initially, he doesn’t seem all that troubled by this; after all, Yamazaki is honoring his side of the bargain by backing Miyamura, so Urara won’t be alone and sad. But when fellow powers-immune Tamaki keeps asking him to team up with him so they can undo the situation, Yamada kinda snaps and destroys a lectern with his bare hands.

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Just as he does so, the person he both saved and exiled himself from, Urara, comes in, wondering if Yamada wanted to join the supernatural club. Yamada refuses, not wanting to cause her trouble, but as she turns away to leave he springs a confession on her, and she rejects him, because she likes someone else.

But even though Yamada gets angry about the prospect of her liking another guy (and the others seem to think she likes Miyamura rather than him), I knew from the get-go that the “other person” she likes is him, but due to Rika’s powers, can’t presently make the connection between the person she likes and Yamada.

It’s a tricky situation to be sure, especially since now that the witches have forgotten Yamada and everything he did to help them, they’re back to stirring up mischief all over school. He agrees with Tamaki that at least playing along Nene’s revitalized plan to gather supporters, her charm power can be put to good use.

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The only problem is, Yamada and Nene pick a public place to kiss; a place Urara happens to be walking past and spots them. Now, Urara may not be consciously aware she loves Yamada, and that they both promised she’d be the first one he kissed after Rika did her thing, she’s clearly aware of it on another level, because she gets extremely upset when she sees him kiss Nene.

Yamada is in a deep hole with two episodes remaining. He has a lot of explaining to do, misunderstandings to clear up, relationships to rebuild from scratch, and, if  possible, witch powers to somehow undo, and he won’t have the supernatural club or Urara on his side to help him, because she’s/they’re the ones he’s trying to get back.

But he does seem to have the witch killer Tamaki on his side (who doesn’t want to be alone either), and could yet benefit from the powers of Nene and the other witches besides Urara and Rika. He’s down, but he’s not out.

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 09

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What a tangled web Y7 weaves…and yet it all holds together marvelously. As thanks for helping to change her fiery future, Sarushima lets Yamada borrow her powers for their festival booth. Sarushima then asks Yamada to help her erase her power, stating she wants to fall in love and never will if she knows the future of everyone she kisses. As a practical matter, Sarushima has outgrown her power, so it’s not a bad thing for her to want to free it up for another girl.

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Unfortunately for Yamada, the “Witch Killer” whose services he seeks on Sarushima’s behalf is Tamaki Shinichi, a bit of an aloof trickster, who has already stolen the invisibility power of a witch, a power that will stay with him until he kisses another witch. Tamaki agrees to take Sarushima’s ability, but only if Yamada gives him valuable intel on whom Yamazaki will be choosing to succeed him as StuCo President.

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Yamada first asks Yamazaki upfront for this sensitive information, which Yamazaki predictably declines to surrender, so Yamada decides to try Odagiri’s power—given to him with her blessing, as she wants to help Sarushima too—to charm him. Only his lips can’t get anywhere near Yamazaki’s, because of his secretary and bodyguard Asuka Mikoto stops him with a furious, panstu-revealing kick.

They tie Yamada up, expecting to need torture to get his true intentions out of him, but Yamada is happy to just tell them: Tamaki wants the info. Ironically, Tamaki was atop Yamazaki’s list of successors, but is bumped down when Yamazaki learns of his scheming. We also learn Asuka was the sixth witch, who willingly had her invisibility power taken by Tamaki…though that doesn’t explain her amazing strength!

With the candidates neck-and-neck-and-neck, Yamazaki proposes that the one who discovers the identity of the seventh witch will win the presidency.

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There’s suddenly a lot of moving parts in Yamada’s plan to help Sarushima move on, but he never for a second considers backing out of helping her. In fact, he dutifully explains all these moving parts as the cause for the delay (everyone he needs wants something). Sarushima rewards him for his hard work with a kiss, forgetting that it means he’ll see her future.

It’s fun to wonder in the context of their kiss here, that if and when Sarushima does lose her power, whether she’d discover she was in love with Yamada after all.

Anyway, in that future, he sees that Sarushima has lost her powers (which is good), Tamaki has become president (which is fine), Shiraishi is Tamaki’s secretary.

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That last bit is concerning to Yamada, especially the way she walks away with Tamaki and looks back at him in the vision. It spurs Yamada to decide to change the future he sees, by helping Miyamura find the seventh instead of Tamaki.

At the bonfire where he and Miyamura keep their distance from their reveling friends and classmates, Yamada admits to him what we’ve known for some time, but he hasn’t been able to verbalize until now: he loves Shiraishi, and doesn’t want to lose her.

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Miyamura and Odagiri thus begin separately researching all the troublemakers in the school in their search for the seventh witch. Tamaki seems unmotivated to Odagiri, but by telling Miyamura this, and how it could be a two-horse race between them, Yamada figures out that Miyamura, Tsubaki, Itou and Shiraishi have been kissed by Tamaki, making him invisible to them, which he no doubt used to steal their research.

Rather than simply continue the race to find the seventh, Yamada, who is very much invested in Tamaki not winning, decides to use Shiraishi’s body-swapping ability to get back at him.

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That plan will be set into motion with him switching bodies with Shiraishi, but in the light of his realization of his love for her, Yamada finds it more difficult than ever to actually kiss her, worrying about all the variables they never bothered worrying about before. Shiraishi isn’t having it and kisses him.

This upsets him, and when Shiraishi asks why, he tells her: in that future, she wore a look he never wanted to see again; a look of isolation and loneliness; the antithesis to her warm bright smile at the bonfire, surrounded by friends. But Shiraishi responds to his concerns with her own resolution: to never go back to being that lonely person, before asking Yamada to change the future for her.

Perhaps, once he has, Shiraishi may not have further use for her power, nor Yamada for his, and these two can move forward, along with Asuka and Sarushima, to lives defined not by supernatural abilities, but confidence, devotion and love.

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Oregairu 2 – 10

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So this is how it’s all poised to end? With Yukino marrying Hayato to form an alliance between their families? And this is how Haruno decided to break that news to Hikky? Man, that’s harsh! Nagato Yuki getting hit by a car harsh!

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But let me back up: this was another solid and thoroughly enjoyable episode of Oregairu. Irohas’ non-flirtation flirtation, along with her not-so-easily-concealed growing affection for him (paired with yet another quick rejection, even as she herself stings from the same thing), starts things off right. Sakura Ayane is doing a nice job as Kosaki’s sister over on Nisekoi:, but she really shows her stuff here, with a far better script in her hands and a meatier character to chew on.

If my hardly-groundbreaking theory about Yukino and Hayato holds true, it means both Hikky and Iroha are alike in being rejected by the members of that couple. Misery loves company, yes?

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Putting aside romantic entanglements real or envisioned: the cavalry arrives a week earlier than it does in Preston’s DanMachi, as Yukino cuts through the other school’s verbose president like butter. I don’t know what it is about Hayami Saori and rants, but her swift, biting, brutally accurate takedown is her best performance since Hatoko’s Rant, and was a lot longer in the making.

It wasn’t just a takedown of the haughty synergy nut, either. A lot of what she said also, somewhat devastatingly, applies to her present situation.

This is what Hikky had been missing: someone who knew what to say and wasn’t afraid to say it. Better still, Yukinon opens the door for Yui, Hikky, and Iroha to take the reins of the meeting and finally hammer out what they’re going to actually do for the Christmas event.

And lest I forget, Hikky lays his past mistakes bare before Yukino pipes up. After the display, Kaori comes to him, both impressed and admitting she was wrong about him. While dating remains as out of the question as ever, she wouldn’t mind someone like him as a friend, if he’ll have her.

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LOVE how quickly the event flies by, in montage-form. Sometimes, you just need a montage to barrel through something that in a longer form would only take away valuable character time. Suffice it to say, Iroha and the other Prez manage to shine and the event is a smash hit, thanks to the efforts of the Service Club.

Back in the club room, Hikky not only finds Yukino pouring tea again, but the girls got together to get him a special teacup as a Christmas present, which was all kinds of sweet.

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When Yui brings up getting a present for Yukino with Hikky, he asks her when she’s free to go shopping, with phrasing that could be easily construed as asking her out. Later, Komachi ditches Hikky and Yukino, leaving them alone on the train, where she grabs his sleeve as much as she dares when they hit a bump.

But there was something so final about those doors closing on the softly smiling Yukino, as she said she was looking forward to the next year. Could that be because it’s her last year as a single woman?

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I’m with Yui: glasses DO make you look more intelligent. That’s just SCIENCE, man! ; )

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All of Hayato’s seemingly guilty self-deprication and strange comments to Hikky; all of Haruno’s meddling; the presence of Haruno, her and Yukino’s mom, and Hayato at the same mall where Hikky and Yui happen to be shopping for Yukino; Haruno calling Yukino and telling her to join them; it all feels like Yukino and especially Hikky being ambushed. With Yukino being ambushed into participating in the ambush of HIkky.

Is this Haruno’s way of presenting The Truth to Hikky, and by extension us, the audience? If so, it’s Classic Haruno: cruelty with a smile. Hikky has certainly had a lot of other options placed in front of him, but while I’ve at turns shipped for him and Yui or Iroha or even Kaori (Hilarious!), part of  me has always felt like the show was going to somehow get Yukino and him together. After this week, whatever went on here, the chances of that kind of ending seem bleaker than ever…

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 08

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I’ve liked how deftly Y7 has kept things fresh by approaching each new witch intro from a different angle, which is also appropriate considering the unique problems that led to them getting their powers in the first place. Urara was and is Yamada’s primary love interest. Nene was an adversary, while Meiko and Maria needed his help.

With Takigawa Noa, we seem to be dealing with another adversary. Her powers are believed to be the opposite of Maria’s, meaning the Supe Club assumes Noa’s turned three formerly popular students into troublemakers through blackmail or manipulation. But nothing is ever as clear-cut as it seems on this show. In fact, Noa’s turns out to be the most emotionally complex witch cases yet.

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She’s also, at first, the toughest nut to crack. Yamada thinks at first he can put on the charm and get a kiss to make things easier, but to his shock, Noa is grossed out by him, having only teased him about liking him.

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With Yamada’s pride hurt, he tries again, but only gets a push broom to the face. When he reveals he’s in the Supe Club and knows she’s a witch, Noa pulls attitude 180, and is suddenly keen to kiss him. So keen, Yamada thinks something is fishy, and rebuffs her advances. Now she’s the one with the hurt pride.

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Using her knew knowledge of Yamada, she hits him where he lives, having her three troubled friends/minions brutally ransack the clubroom. I’m not sure how they weren’t simply suspended or expelled right then and there, but the adults are all but nonexistent in this school, so whatever.

Pissed off more than ever, Yamada confronts President Yamazaki for the truth about Noa, and he gets it: she wants to make witches out of her three friends, and eradicate all the others. That means Urara, Nene, Meiko and Maria are all in danger.

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Rather than panic, Yamada stages a trap for Noa’s crew, using a game, excited Urara as the bait. I appreciate her adventurous spirit throughout this mission, and the fact she trusts Yamada’s judgement more than anyone else. The female friend of Noa kisses Urara, and celebrates the fact she was able to switch bodies, so she can now pesumably do something to get Urara expelled and thus powers revoked.

Only Yamada kissed Urara before, so the girl only ends up switching with him, in Urara’s body. She and the other two are tied up and held captive in the club room while Yamada, still in the girl’s body, opens negotiations with Noa.

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Two others (not sure who) accompany Yamada in the bodies of Noa’s friends, but Noa knows who they are immediately. She offers the notebook, then both notebooks in exchange for her people, but Yamada wants more: for the witch-hunting activities to stop, a condition Noa flatly refuses.

The talks break down, and Tsubaki and Itou beat Yamada for failing again, but Yamada insists this is about more than getting the notebooks back: three students’ reputations are at stake, and Noa must be stopped. That’s when Noa’s friends agree to stop their activities of their own volition. They’d rather be together with Noa than for her to be alone.

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This awakens Yamada to a key point: Noa hasn’t been manipulating her friends. When he gives them back to her, he asks her if taking over the school with her power was really her goal, and castigates them for causing all those problems that caused them to lose the popularity they already had.

That’s when a frustrated Noa kisses Yamada, and he experiences her power firsthand: in a dream, he relives the most traumatic memory of her past, when her classmates locked her in a storage room for hours until she wet herself. Similarly, her three friends never did anything bad; they were framed.

Noa has wanted to save them for so long, and thought she could do so by getting them witch powers. But when Yamada stopped them, she remembered they were popular from the start, and only their association with her hurt them.

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Then the three friends come to Noa’s aid, fighting Yamada and insisting they won’t leave her side. But Yamada shoots back that it’s their wishy-washiness that’s causing Noa’s suffering. Yamada doesn’t have all the answers, but he thinks they should at least do whatever they can to make Noa smile.

At that, another switch seems to go of in Noa’s head, and when we next see her, she’s in the club clinging to Yamada, whom she claims to have fallen for completely. Urara, whom you’d think would be jealous about such a development, is actually happy, because Noa’s power is more about simply seeing someone’s darkest hour, it’s about both kisser and kissee opening their hearts to one another, eliminating artifice and pretense.

They haven’t known each other long, but Yamada and Noa experienced that, and now he knows she’s not just an annoying schemer, and he’s not just a nosy, gross upperclassman. Urara also remarks that the two aren’t all that dissimilar: Yamada’s power also ultimately brings him closer to each of the witches, since to know their powers is to know the problems that gave rise to them. He knew exactly what to do for Noa, and she appreciates it.

It was great watching the battle of wills between Noa and Yamada, as well as the breathless evolution of their relationship. Yuuki Aoi is a great addition to the already stacked cast. Two witches to go!

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Oregairu 2 – 09

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Happiness is:

  • Hikky dreading going back to school after the club’s big conciliatory catharsis.
  • Komachi doing a pitch-perfect impression of Hikky’s condescending mumble, before remarking that she likes this “scum-niichan” just fine, and Hikky agreeing with her.
  • Hikky returning to a very brightly-lit club room to find a perfectly civil, downright chipper (for her) Yukino.
  • An elated Yui wanting to sit as close to Yukino as physically possible.
  • Yukino being both happy and a little uncomfortable with the closeness.

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Happiness is:

  • Yukino and Yui attending the event meeting with Hikky. The cavalry has arrived!
  • Yukino and Yui’s priceless reaction to Hikky and Irohas’ little bag exchange ritual. “What was THAT all about?” their eyes seem to ask…
  • Yukino and Yui both agreeing with Hikky’s opinion of the other president dude, but being unable to enact instant change. Fixing will take some doing.
  • Shizuka giving Hikky, Yukino, Yui and Irohas tickets to Destiny Land to celebrate the club pulling through.
  • Hikky’s demand for someone to marry Shizuka already, before he’s forced to.
  • The gradual reveal that Yukino is not only a yearly member of Destiny Land, but doesn’t want to go during the busy season.
  • Yui and Hikky working together to convince her to come anyway.

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Happiness is:

  • Iroha inviting her crush Hayama, which leads to Miura, Ebina, and Tobe also tagging along. One big happy family. (Unfortunately absent but probably for the best: Kawasaki and Totsuka).
  • The resulting dynamic of Hikky with his two girls (Yukino and Yui), Hayama and his two girls (Miura and Iroha) and Ebina and Tobe, a pairing that Hikky worked so hard to prevent, which led to all that unpleasantness that is now behind them.
  • How Hikky is cut off in the group photo, but the one closest to him is Yukino.

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Happiness is: This photo.

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Happiness is:

  • Yukino teasing Yui about how there will never be a “next time” in which she’ll allow her photo to be taken.
  • Hikky’s realization the two are only joking around and are actually closer than ever.
  • Ebina properly thanking Hikky once more for what he did, knowing what it cost.
  • Hikky telling Ebina his, Yukino’s and Yui’s problem had nothing to do with her request; it had been brewing before; at best it was a catalyst/last straw.
  • Hikky smiling unironically. I know; I’m scared too!
  • Yukino demanding absolute silence on the Panda Battle ride.

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Happiness is:

  • The adorableness that is Yui getting up in Hikky’s face with a panda puppet.
  • The moment Hikky believes Yui is making “the first move” she told him she’d make (last season), rather than wait.
  • The way Hikky agrees to a date at the theme park next door (Amaburi?), “someday,” which is enough for Yui for now.
  • Yui slipping animal ears on herself and Yukino and having Hikky snap their picture.
  • Everyone wanting to give Komachi gifts. She got the ball rolling on Hikky’s redemption, after all. But more than that, she’s just a very cute and lovable sister.

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Happiness is:

  • Circumstances working out so Hikky and Yukino end up separated from the others.
  • Yukino taking Hikky’s sleeve in her hand, asking him to “save her someday,” just before their boat takes the plunge. DAT PLUNGE. The silence…pure poetry.

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Happiness is: Yukino making relative peace with the fact she isn’t like her sister, or Hikky, and may not “have what they have,” but that’s okay, because she still loves them both. (She doesn’t say that part, but it’s pretty evident.)

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Happiness is Hikky, Yukino, and Yui side by side by side, watching the park’s fireworks show, being bathed in warm and cool flashes of light as they wear smiles on their faces.

Happiness is Yukino’s many smiles throughout this episode, in particular that last one looking up at the sky, and Yui whispering to Hikky, again getting as possible close to the person she loves.

Happiness is NOT watching Iroha confess to Hayama, only to get flatly rejected and run off, more upset than we’ve ever seen her.

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However, as unhappy an event as it was, I was very happy with how it was portrayed: from the POVs of the others, in particular Hikky; without words, only expressions half-concealed by the shadows. All the planning in the world to create an opportunity for Iroha to get closer to Hayama didn’t mean a thing, because Hayama didn’t want to get closer to her.

Will she now turn to Hikky, fulfilling the prophecy in the OP of Iroha taking her place among the other three Service Club members, filling the void between Hikky and the others? Whatever happens, and as sadly as this episode ended, there was still plenty of happiness to be found.

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