Sonny Boy – 03 – The Detective Is Already Snarky

Nozomi, Nagara, and Asakaze have turned out to be a pretty good survey team, with Nozomi locating new worlds with her Compass, Nagara being able to access them, and Asakaze bailing them out with his powers of flight.

When we check in they’ve already found thirteen new worlds, and Rajdhani is soaking up the data like a sponge at his beachfront laboratory. Their survey work is interrupted by an unsettling trend of students starting to freeze in place and turn pitch black, like voids in human form.

Since she’s the one with the most time on her hands owing to the immense wealth her power provides, Mizuho is put on the case, and she chooses Nagara as her Watson, partly to share what sounds like a hassle of a case, but also because Nagara…was nice to her previously, and she enjoys his company.

That said, she still initially treats him as a rank servant, making it clear that this isn’t a collaboration of equals. That said, she still orders a gaudy couch big enough for both of them, and even gets Nagara the same fast food order she got. When it comes to sharing the wealth, she’s fine sharing it with Nagara.

The uniting quality of the two students (who later become three, then four) who fell victim to the freezing phenomenon is that they kept to themselves, hardly anyone noticed them when they were around, and no one noticed when they suddenly vanished.

While Nagara is busy with Mizuho, Nozomi and Asakaze fail to find any new worlds. Despite this, Asakaze drops in specifically to tell Nagara that he’s not needed and that Nozomi doesn’t care if he doesn’t come back. Nagara brushes this off, and that ineffectual passivity irks Mizuko.

Eventually, Mizuho and Nagara break the case wide open when, no doubt due to Nagara’s unspoken power even he may not even be aware he has, they discover a portal to the space where the four students ended up.

They walk through a honeycomb of blackout curtain walls separating the four spaces of the students, all of whom are content to stay right where they are and keep doing what they’re doing indefinitely. It becomes evident that while they may be content, this wasn’t originally their doing, but another rule of the world, separating those no one else wants around or cares about.

After Nagara and Mizuho’s nightly debriefing with Cap and Pony, a minor disagreement causes simmering underlying resentment to boil over for both of them. Mizuho points how how watching Nozomi follow him around like a puppy grosses her out; Nagara accuses Mizuho of lying to show off and being “ill-natured” because she’s just another recluse; Mizuho tells Nagara to die and storms off.

It’s a testament to how much these two have come to know each other that they each know the precise buttons to press to sting hardest.

But because the two really do care what the other thinks of them despite words to the contrary, both of them feel bad about the spat. Fortunately, back at Rajdhani’s lab, Nozomi offers a clue Nagara hadn’t considered, and he texts an apology to Mizuho, along with a promise to be waiting by the blackout curtains tomorrow.

Armed with Rajdhani’s bizarre, whimsical instruments, the two get down to business lifting the blackout curtains and freeing the students. This is Sonny Boy at its most Eizouken, particularly with the fantastical machinery and Yuuki Aoi lending Mizuho such a wonderfully husky, distinctive voice.

With the case solved and the afflicted students retrieved, Nagara and Mizuho make up with a handshake; what was said when heads were less cool and frustration was mounting is water under the bridge.

As much if not more than their surreal surroundings, what I enjoyed most about this episode was just reveling in this nascent friendship between two people who don’t normally do so well around others doing just fine around one another. I daresay I wouldn’t even mind a whole cour of these two solving cases together.

On the periphery were some interesting inroads into the larget questions about this place, with Hoshi admitting a voice told him this would all happen, and Nozomi being the first to suggest that while she can spot new worlds, Nagara alone has the power to create portals between them.

Sonny Boy – 02 – Kindle Blue Fire

While technically a beach episode, there’s not a ball or a bikini to be found. There are crabs—you gotta love crab—as well as a makeshift open-air classroom with rows of desks and a chalkboard, but otherwise the sand is just another flat surface for Nagara to lie on and wile away the hours.

When Nozomi catches a crab, it cuts her hand up pretty badly with its claw, but she soon heals; just another one of the rules of this “This World”, as the egghead Rajdhani calls it while explaining the situation.

While most of the class is in tents on the beach, Mizuho has, presumably through the three cat Amazon power called Nyamazaon, built a Disney princess castle full of stuff, but otherwise isn’t that different from Nagara in her fondness for straight chillin’.

Another girl steals makeup from Mizuho’s vast collection of things with impunity, but that and other items acquired from Nyamazon start to burst into blue flames, rumors spread that Mizuho is doing it intentionally.

Mizuho doesn’t help matters by stirring the shit on social media that the recent election was rigged in Michi’s (AKA Pony’s) favor—which is the truth; the extremely Kyuubey-like Hoshi helped rig it. Pony and Hoshi learn Mizuho is behind it and try to exact an apology, but Mizuho is stubbornly refuses.

When they confront her at the front gate, Hoshi uses his power of showing everyone potential futures to depict the entire island covered in blue flame; everything destroyed. On top of it all, Mizuho is exhausted and filthy from looking for one of her cats, who has gone missing.

While the rumor may have well gotten started since Mizuho is a natural target for envy and resentment among the other students due to her extremely cool power, Nagara still blames himself for blabbing about Mizuho knowing something about the flames, which got twisted into “Mizuho is responsible for the flames.”

But thanks to Rajdhani’s research and a retro Game Boy, it is determined that the blue flames appear every time someone receives something without a fair exchange. Among the things that burned-up, only Raj’s Game Boy was exchanged for some toys he made with his power, and only it escaped those flames. Therefore, it isn’t Mizuho’s doing, but the Rules of the World.

Among the students, most of whom end up in the “Punish Mizuho” camp/mob, only Nagara and Nozomi want to help her. They both know she’s not doing this, but also know that she hasn’t explicitly defended herself, which isn’t doing her any favors. Nagara also finds the missing cat, and unlike two previous instances of letting birds die, this time he takes care of the animal like the non-heartless person he is.

The two decides to go to her—nay, run to her, just as she’s literally making it rain fat stacks of cash, which soon burn up and set fire to the whole island. Mizuho, overcome with relief her kitty is safe, admits that she should have simply stated her innocence from the beginning. It’s an all-around wonderful performance by Mizuho’s seiyu Yuuki Aoi—which comes as no surprise as she’s one of the best in the business.

Nagara, Nozomi, and Mizuho oversee the ruined island—the realization of Hoshi’s vision—and concede the fact that they can’t live there any more. But then something happens: as the sun rises over the ocean, the island essentially resets itself to before everything burned up.

It’s as if the island, which set the rule of fair exchange, is forgiving all of the students for their stumblings as they learn of those rules and correct their misunderstandings. Mizuho comes down from her castle and apologizes, but only for making it rain flammable money…not the stuff she was accused of doing but didn’t really do.

Mizuho also stops by the beach where Nagara is lying to give him a token of her appreciation for finding her cat: a hat to keep his face out of the sun. When he asks if he needs to give her anything in return for it, she says with a gentle smile that it’s “her treat” before walking away.

This episode was significantly less weird and frightening than the first, but that tends to happen when you take the inscrutable black void out of the equation. What it was was another relatively straightforward exploration of how the court of public opinion can be wrong—in school or life—and it’s up to those who know it’s wrong to speak up. Nagara grew as a person in this episode, as did Mizuho, and they each gained a friend in the process.

Credit also goes to Rajdhani for not giving up on trying to make sense of the place, thus confirming the injustice being done to Mizuho, as well as Nozomi, for lending Nagara the encouragement to correct the injustice. Just as she’s the “Compass” who can see the ways out of these other worlds, she’s also a moral compass; a check against both rampant authority and rampant apathy.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sonny Boy – 01 (First Impressions) – Rules are Rules

Welcome to RABUJOI’s belated reviews of Sonny Boy! I will try to catch up before the end of the cour, but no promises—Braverade

More than anything else, this episode is full of uncertainty. Why is this school suddenly in a black void? Why do only some students have superpowers? Who did this, if anyone? What exactly is happening, and how is it happening? Will it stop, and when? Nothing is certain…hey, kinda like the times we live in. But enough about reality, let’s step into the land of surreality.

The void is intentionally creepy, both in its impenetrable darkness and its haunting stillness. I’ve always been drawn to voids in fiction, because they typically have a way of simplifying the universe down to…the contents within the void that are not the void.

While one egg-headed student is asking these questions, everyone else is going full Lord of the Flies (or at least that’s the vibe I’m getting; I only skimmed the book but I watched the Simpsons episode that references it). The approaches to coping with their new abnormal are as diverse as the personalities of the 36 students.

The three-person StuCo doesn’t have time to ponder the big questions; they were the authorities before the void, and if they don’t claim some degree of power and control everything will soon devolve into pure chaos. The little guy Hoshi may already have some answers, but he’s also shrewd enough to capitalize on the asset that is the class’s popular, if oafish, baseball star in Cap.

It isn’t long before the order that is established (through social media, natch) is challenged by some of the power-havers, who are already well on their way to drunk on that power, like Asakaze. He’s not about that with great power axiom; for him, if he has a power, he should be able to use it to his heart’s content.

If he’s drunk on his trippy glass-shattering power, Cap delivers the hangover in the form of a PENALTY, which asserts itself as a frighteningly sudden big black X on the faces of those who receive them. They are then forced to do something—in his case, long division of pi all night.

Hovering around the periphery of all this political push-and-pull are two outcasts in Nagara and Nozomi. Nagara would rather stay out of sight and out of mind; Nozomi would rather do what she wants when she wants to. She doesn’t have the power of the others but they share a distaste of authority.

When she politely declines the smartphone Cap offers her, then takes it and smashes it on the gym floor, she’s not immune to the PENALTY: a hundred laps around the school that leave her flat on her back on the homeroom floor—Nagara’s usual position as he apparently yearns to be one with said floor.

After a very unsettling shot of the school apparently very slowly sinking into the inky void, we get a flashback of sorts to just before the school went into the void.  Nagara finds Nozomi tearing up some workbook she got from the faculty office, and invites him to join her. Not eager to do anything with anyone, he turns to leave, saying he has stuff to do.

But he’s pressed by Nozomi about whether he actually wants to go somewhere and do something else other than where he is and what he’s doing. All the while, storm clouds obscure the blue skies. When Nozomi puts her hands on Nagara as he’s trying to leave, a lightning bolt flashes and just like that, the school is in the void.

Whether Nagara caused this on accident or not (and whether Nozomi was the catalyst for him doing it, making them partners in crime, like Flowers of Evil), it’s certainly not something in his control, nor was it ever. The StuCo is suddenly ambushed by power-havers who twist the school into either an Escherian nightmare…or a Katamari.

They declare that they’re in charge now, but Hoshi is unimpressed. Cap PENALTYs Asakaze’s two associates, but as he hasn’t broken one of the agreed-upon school rules, the PENALTY “power” doesn’t work on him.

Still, Cap uses brute force by hitting Asakaze with a baseball bat. Since that breaks the rules, it’s Hoshi who PENALTYs Cap into stripping naked and hopping around. Hoshi then drops another hint that he knows a lot more than everyone else, including the egghead (who is probably not on the right track trying to apply things like physics to this predicament).

When Asakaze won’t stand down, Hoshi demonstrates his apparent power: showing everyone a future where no one ever escapes the school and eventually become desiccated corpses seated beside each other. It’s the most overtly spooky and unnerving sequence in an episode full of weird shit.

Once again on their own wavelength, Nozomi takes Nagara by the hand, avoids all of the StuCo versus Supes drama, and seeks out that bright spot in the void she saw before. It turns out to be the same white feather she plucked from Nagara’s face in the episode’s opening moments.

She then decides to put her life in the hands of fate by performing an experiment to see what happens when you leap from the physical school into that endless black nightmare. In a show with 36 characters, I wasn’t 100% sure this wasn’t the end for Nozomi just as soon as we met her.

Instead, Nagara grabs her arm just in time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter, as the rusty railing breaks, sending them plummeting down the void until, suddenly, it’s not a void anymore. Their bodies and the piece of railing must’ve “popped” the void, revealing that the school is sinking into an unknown ocean, just off the coast of an unknown island with both lush green jungle and a slim, jagged alpine mountain peak, like the Matterhorn stretched vertically.

It’s probably simplistic to say this episode was a trip, but it was a welcome and thrilling one. Even at its most quiet and mundane, primal dread emanated from every nook and cranny. Nagara is somewhat of a nullity so far, but Nozomi, the StuCo, and the bristling supes are all fun to watch. I’m eagerly awaiting the next episode; whether it delivers answers or more questions, I know it’ll be another weird trip presented with a strikingly austere beauty.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Horimiya – 04 – Not Going Anywhere

After a particularly cute scene with StuCo member Kouno Sakura, Tooru meets up with Miyamura, who has ice cream courtesy of Hori (not present). Unfortunately, the other ice cream is melon, which Tooru can’t eat. Thankfully they run into President Sengoku, and soon the boys are comparing tongue color and length, as guys do!

When Sengoku invites the two to stop by the (blessedly air-conditioned) StuCo office, they show up with Hori and Yuki, making for a full house. They use janken to determine Horimiya should grab everyone drinks, but when they’re gone too long, Tooru gets worried about what they’re “up to”. When they’re back, there’s a misunderstanding, but Kouno is there to help set him straight…and with a towel to clean his soda, which Miyamura dropped.

Back at her house, Hori apologize for the A/C not working, but Miyamura says he doesn’t mind. When the subject of his sleeping in underwear comes up, Hori impulsively asks to see his tattoos, and he immediately strips. This throws her off, but it shouldn’t, she’s seen them before. She wonders what if anything makes him blush or get flustered, and he assures her…there’s plenty!

For one thing, his middle school friend Shindo, who he bumps into while in town. Shindo has seen Miyamura with Hori enough to assume they’re dating, something that flusters Miyamura. Then Shindo sends him a photo of him with his GF and suggests a double date…a text Hori doesn’t get to see.

What Hori does see is Miyamura getting flustered and raising the volume of his voice, but calling Shindo just to yell “PISS OFF!” As with every time she sees a new part of him, Hori is fascinated…and also a little sad that there’s still so much about him she doesn’t know. Only one thing for that, Hori: keep asking!

Next time Hori’s in town, she’s approached by Shindo, not having a clue who he is. Miyamura spots them while he’s walking with Tooru, and he immediately charges Shindo and starts punching and slapping him. The thing is, Shindo barely reacts at all to this, meaning it’s just their dynamic. Like Hori, Tooru is fascinated, and the four decide to do lunch.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to see that lunch, but we do get a glimpse into Miyamura’s middle school life, thanks to a very effective smash cut to the past. He was shunned for being gloomy and depressing by everyone except Shindo, who was super-popular with the class, and soon befriends him.

When his other mates tell him to avoid Miyamura, Shindo shuts them right down, saying they’re just mad because they think Miyamura stole him from them. Now we know: Shindo’s a decent guy, like Miyamura, only more gregarious and approachable. It’s only natural they’d be friends. I just hope we meet his girlfriend soon, because we know she’s got a keeper!

Earlier in the ep we got Hori’s Chekhov’s Cough, which she denied was a sign of a cold, because “only morons get colds in the summer.” Well, one morning she has a temperature over 100°, and who should stop her from leaving the house and put her back in bed but her awesome kid brother Souta, who is growing up fast!

Souta also contacts Miyamura, who is in Hori’s room with water, sports drink and meds when she wakes up. She has a feverish dream about her mother having to leave a previous time she was sick in bed. Her mom praised her for being so good at “toughing things out”, but what Hori didn’t tell her mom is that she didn’t want her to go.

After giving Hori a wet towel, Miyamura gets up to leave so she can change, and Hori panics, rising out of bed only to collapse from the fever. She grabs Miyamura’s arm and asks what she could never ask her mom—“Where are you going?”  Miyamura knows what she means is “Please don’t go”. Taking her hand in his, he answers: He’s not going anywhere until she doesn’t need him anymore, or is sick of his face.

He helps her back in bed, then tells her to drink some water while she’s lying on her side away from him. He also tells her he’s in love with her, and has been for a while now, and to call or text him if she needs anything. He’ll be right over. A few beats after he leaves, Hori leaps out of bed, her fever momentarily broken, thinking “WHAT did he just say?”, even though she already knows.

She wonders if she pretends not to have heard it, the two of them can “stay like this for a little while longer.” But he said it—albeit in the middle of a bunch of “boring stuff”—and she can’t un-hear it. Especially with her abandonment issues in mind, I can understand her desire to maintain the status quo. But she shouldn’t pretend out of fear of losing what she has when she could have so much more. The more she waffles, the greater the chance Miyamura will return to thinking she doesn’t have the feelings he has. It seems the ball is in her court. No pressure!

Horimiya – 02 – Your (First) Name.

The first Horimiya was so nice I watched it twice, and if anything it was even better because I didn’t have to take mental notes for a review, I just slipped into it like a warm cozy blanket and enjoyed. I enjoyed so much, in fact, at no point during the two viewings did I realize that Hori didn’t know Miyamura’s first name!

But before that, Hori and Miyamura are strolling along the shopping district when she overhears the theme song of an anime Souta likes, and starts singing along. In addition to showing off Tomatsu Haruka’s lovely singing voice, she also charms Miyamura to no end, even though she herself is embarrassed.

It’s such a gorgeous and realistic little moment in these two’s normal lives, not just because she felt so carefree with Miyamura she sang in front of him without thinking. Memorizing songs your kid siblings (or kids, if you’re a parent) is just a thing that happens IRL. You think I care about “Let it Go” enough to memorize the lyrics? Doesn’t matter, because my nieces watched Frozen literally hundreds of times!

Back to first names: Hori suddenly realizes she doesn’t know Miyamura’s when her perpetually busy mom stops by the house unannounced. Voiced by Kayano Ai in Full Mischievous Mom Mode, Hori can’t conceal how much Miyamura has been over of late since Souta is right there to fact-check. That said, Hori’s description of him as “dark villain in a detective movie”? *Chef’s kiss*

While a more structurally complex episode than the first, Horimiya hews to storytelling best practices. A “what’s your first name” scenario could be drawn out across a whole episode, but it manages to resolve things in just a third of one. Hori’s Wile E. Coyote-like attempts to learn without asking fail hilariously, particularly when she has the gall to ask Tooru, the guy she just rejected, about Miyamura!

With her mom around, Hori has a surefire way of hearing Miyamura introduce himself, but her mom seems to sense she’s trying to take a shortcut and save face, so she diabolically sends Hori off on an errand when Miyamura stops by. Finally, with Miyamura directly asking if something’s bothering her, and if it’s because she has a crush on someone, she has no choice but to come clean.

Miyamura Izumi has a good laugh at her expense. Souta calls her lame, and Miyamura has known her first name was Kyouko all along. But at the end of the segment, she’s able to cast aside the histrionics and laugh about it with them. The bit doesn’t go on any longer than it needs to, and now Hori has a piece of paper with Miyamura’s name, so she has no excuse to forget it!

The next segment introduces three new classmates, bringing the total to seven. All three are in the Student Council, and include President, Top-Ranked student, and Hori’s childhood friend Sengoku Kakeru, his gorgeous girlfriend/StuCo mascot Ayasaki Remi (M · A · O), and the VP, Kouno Sakura.

The StuCo and Kakeru in particular seem to have no qualms pushing huge heaps of StuCo paperwork on Hori, despite her not being a member. Worse still, much of the work she’s tasked with doing should be Remi’s responsibility. Hori’s friends can tell all the extra work is weighing on her, but she seems stubbornly determined—and oddly obligated—to do it anyway.

Later that afternoon, while Miyamura is minding his own business in the hall, thinking about whether to bake Hori a cake to cheer her up, Remi races past and barrels into him, spilling a huge box of papers everywhere. Then Remi has the temerity to ask him to watch where he’s going. Dude was stationary, kid! When he notices she left a stack of papers behind, she says it’s cool to just toss them.

The next day, Miyamura arrives to find a potential dust-up in the hallway, as Kakeru accuses Hori of losing track of the budget papers. She rightfully pleads innocence, and while Kakeru admits both sides share some responsibility, he still demands an apology. Hori seems on the verge of tears as the crowd around them prepares to make their own conclusions.

From then, it’s Miyamura to the rescue, handing his bag and glasses to Tooru for safekeeping, pushing through the crush, and delivering a swift headbutt to Kakeru, then producing the missing budget papers. Remi is revealed as the party responsible for their being misplaced, and turns on the waterworks.

But like Miyamura lying to Tooru last week, or the first-name thing this week, this is just another thing, and all parties are able move past it. The StuCo bow in apologetic unison, Yuki gives Hori a relieved hug, and Hori thanks her pierced knight in tattooed armor.

As for why he headbutted Kakeru, well…the guy was simply pissing him off. Me too, Miyamura! But we also learn the reason why Kakeru and Hori’s dynamic is the way it is. It reveals that ever since they were little tykes and through grade and middle school, Hori consistently bullied and messed with Kakeru.

I for one am glad Kakeru isn’t just a one-dimensional bad guy, but something more nuanced, and with reason and history behind his manner. He vowed to Hori that he’d make something of himself in high school and she’d no longer be able to mess with him, and so he has; he’s the academic top dog and loved by virtually everyone.

Miyamura is a new wrinkle in their long-standing relationship, and even though Miyamura has no intention of delivering any further headbutting, Kakeru still shrinks into a anxious ball when Miyamura greets him in the morning. Maybe Kakeru, like his childhood friend, also sees the detective movie villain in him!

The third and final segment (lotta bang for the buck this week!) could also have been stretched into an entire episode, but Horimiya’s writing is tight and efficient enough that it’s able to basically tell three episodes worth of story in one. This one focuses on the fact Hori’s birthday is coming up, concurrent with spring break.

Souta asks Hori if Miyamura (whom he thinks of as a brother now) will be over every day; Hori gently warns her little bro that the day may come when Miyamura won’t come over anymore. That could be for a variety of reasons, from the two of them drifting apart, to him finding a girl(or boy)friend, to them simply graduating and ending up in different places afterwards.

The bottom line is, Hori is as sad as Souta about the prospect of Miyamura not coming around anymore. Fortunately, that prospect should be a ways off, if it ever comes. Miyamura comes by with a cake (natch) as well as a very personalized and thoughful gift: a CD of “all the popular music young people like right now” (I love how she phrases it as if she were some old lady).

Between school, housework, and caring for Souta, Hori confessed to have fallen behind on musical trends. She told Miyamura this back when she was singing the anime theme. He not only remembered, but got her exactly what she wanted. She’s amazed he did this, but she shouldn’t be. As Souta tells her earlier, exhibiting quite the precociousness, she should be more honest with herself.

Both express their happiness in that moment with wide but also tentative smiles, as they both look outside the window and watch the sakura petals falling. If it’s Hori’s birthday, it means spring break is almost over, and they’ll be in their third and final year of high school soon.

For such an ostensibly jam-packed episode, the fact this moment is given such time to breathe and fill the space says a lot about the deftness of Horimiya’s direction. It also says a lot about the writing in terms of what isn’t said in this closing scene, simply letting the joy of being together in the present become tempered by the uncertainty of future. Frankly, Miyamura and Hori should stop worrying so much about the future and try to enjoy life in the present!

Yes, it’s something to think about, but it cannot dominate their thoughts, nor always mar otherwise happy times. Heck, the fact they’re so apprehensive about a future in which they’re not together should be an obvious sign of their feelings for one another. If they’re so concerned about time, then they should get a move on with acknowledging those feelings and making them known to one another.

Assault Lily: Bouquet – 09 – Nobody Is Perfect

Matters isolate quickly this week, as Chairman Takamatsu concedes that according to GEHENA and Grand Guignol, Yuri is a Huge, not a human or a Lily, and thus not under the academy’s protection. The StuCo brass goes to Riri just as she’s about to trim Yuri’s bangs, but thankfully Yuyu backs them up, giving them cover to escape.

Whatever she was to GEHENA and Grand Guignol, Yuri is clearly something else entirely now, thanks to Riri and the Legion. Yuri has also demonstrated free will, and it’s her wish to stay with everyone. Still, the government doesn’t see it that way, and orders all available Lilies to capture Yuri and arrest Riri.

Yuyu insists to Takamatsu that Yuri couldn’t possibly by a dangerous entity. The Legion sans Yuyu and Kaede makes a collective effort to support Riri and Yuri, and Yuyu soon joins them to declare that as vice commander she is going against the government’s orders. They’ll pursue Riri and Yuri and be the first to find them, and when they do, they’ll protect them from anyone who tries to take Yuri.

Kaede, whom it was hinted at could be a Guignol mole, ends up not betraying Riri and the Legion. Quite the contrary, her call to her father is to tell him she won’t soon (if ever) forgive him for getting in bed with GEHENA and causing this mess, before joining Yuyu and the others. Meanwhile Riri and Yuri find refuge in an abandoned, Huge-ravaged town.

It isn’t just Riri’s Legion who question the justifications of the government’s pursuit of Yuri. All over the search radius, groups of Lilies from Yurigaoka and other academies are all wondering the same thing: “Is Yuri a person or a Huge?” Their answer determines how they should proceed, and whether they should disobey orders. In the case of three Yurigaoka rank-in-files, the answer is obvious and unanimous: Yuri is a person.

But the government won’t take their word, nor Riri’s, nor even Chairman Takamatsu’s at face value. Their belief must be proven, and that’s what brings us to a surprisingly excellent mini-“courtroom drama” as Takamatsu is grilled before arrogant government representatives. As always, Takamatsu’s position is that the young girls who must bear the burden of combat should be afforded as much free will as possible, and Yuri is no different.

That assertion is proven beyond doubt by the absolutely clutch and badass Moshima “Weekly” Moyu, who just finished science-ing the FUCK out of this issue, and has come to the conclusion that Yuri is not a Huge; she’s Human. 99.9% human. Why not 100? Because no one is 100% human, or we’d all be exactly the same and evolution would never occur.

With the matter of what Yuri is settled, the question becomes a matter of jurisdiction and precedent. Moyu demonstrates how prepared she was for this presentation by citing a treaty their nation’s government ratified last year affording “genetically human” individuals like Yuri the same human rights as naturally born ones.

Takamatsu completes the absolute ruination of the pencil pushers by concluding that the order to arrest Riri and capture Yuri were baseless and illegitimate, and thus should be rescinded. As for Riri and Yuri, as Lilies, their punishment is his responsibility.

Riri and Yuri have some tough conversations about where Yuri belongs and what will happen if things don’t go their way, but thankfully all of that is moot when Yuyu and the rest of the Legion arrives in force, and Yuyu declares the crisis resolved. Yuri has been proven to be human, and thus is now safe. The episode could have ended here…All’s well that ends well…Let’s all celebrate over ice cream!

Well, hold on…not so fast.

Their reunion is interrupted by the emergence of the biggest, baddest, most destructive mega-Huge yet encountered, an Evangelion Angel by any other name that is not only able to control Magie, but draws a continuously replenishing supply from its nest. It demonstrates its power by focusing nine energy fields into one and condensing it into a particle beam that utterly destroys everything in its path.

The Lilies amass on the beach, and the moment Yuri understands the situation, she’s off, on her own, at blinding speed over the water, while effortlessly using a combination of Thi Mai and Gropi’s Rare Skills.

One by one she takes out the nine fields while dodging the Huge’s counterattacks, in another sequence lush with awesome sakuga. When Yuri delivers the coup-de-grace, the resulting explosion is massive and, she smiles a sad but determined smile…as it seems to consume her.

As the remains of the Huge burn offshore, Yuri’s ruined CHARM washes ashore, and Riri takes hold of it as she grieves for her sister who sacrificed herself to save everyone who fought to save her. She bitterly remarks how the day started so innocently—with her giving Yuri he first haircut. How that same day end like this?

This is without doubt the finest bloom yet in Assault Lily’s bouquet. It upended the status quo, raised the stakes to the rafters, and put all the pieces together. It employed its reliably-strong eye candy not as a crutch but to back up some truly superb character work, badass scientific research, and some smart, electric conference room sparring.

As for whether Yuri is really dead, that’s something I’m not yet ready to concede with a certainty. It depends on several factors. Will Assault Lily get a second season? After all those lengthy introductions and lighter, quieter early episodes, I truly hope so…I’ve finally memorized everyone in Riri’s Legion!

Second cour or no, it isn’t even about Assault Lily’s “courage” or “guts” to keep an apparently killed key character dead. If it can come up with a good reason to bring her back, I’m all for it. Like she was for Riri and everyone else, Yuri was taken away far too soon.

Assault Lily: Bouquet – 08 – Field Day at the Garden

Yuri is assigned her ring and CHARM, making her an official Yurigaoka Lily in addition to being the new talk-of-the-academy. The Student Council is weary of arming her, but as far as the (Acting) Chairman is concerned, until new information comes to light, Yuri is as entitled to defend herself as any Lily.

While lounging on their bunks, Shizu reveals that she’s already thinking about the war that could follow the defeat of the Huge: a return of humans fighting each other. Now that humanity has found Magie, what will they (or to be more precise, its shadier elements) do with it?

Shizu ultimately apologizes to Lily for being so somber, especially on the eve of Yurigaoka’s athletic festival. But as Yuri senses with her nose, all the Lilies are carrying a measure of sadness due to their roles as sole defenders of mankind. Athletics aside, there’s also a mood-lightening cosplay division for which the Legion decides Yujia is best suited.

The sports day is an opportunity for outside onlookers to infiltrate academy grounds and observe their defenders; the Chairman calls them “voyeurs” but orders the StuCo only to “take care of them” if they overstep their established bounds. Like the Lilies of the academy, all outsiders’ eyes seem to be fixed on Yuri, so what better way to keep her safe than keep her in the spotlight?

Yuri (re-)learns defeat in her first game to an elite first-year. Rokkaku Shiori shows off her dual-CHARM-wielding skills, while second and first years demonstrate new CHARM mods from the Arsenal Division. Gropi ends up beating her rival Tanaka Ichi in the target-blasting game by using her Phase Transcendence.

This has the side-effect of draining all Gropi’s Magie for the day, so someone else must fight Moyu’s special “Huge-roid”, which she makes clear she designed to defeat Gropi. Instead, it’s Yuri who faces off, and shows off the same stance as her big sis and unofficial Schutzengel, Riri.

Riri is as worried as a flustered mother hen about dropping Yuri into a veritable lion’s den, but her own Schutzengel Yuyu tells her to calm down and watch, as she once watched her. All the Lilies cheer her on and yell advice her way, and in a gorgeously-choreographed and animated sequence, Yuri defeats the Huge-roid with both ease, grace, and style.

It ends up being Riri crying tears of pride and relief and Yuri comforting her, while Tazusa swoons at the cosplay division-winning Yujia’s cat pose. All in all it’s a successful festival; no real Huge interrupted, and Yuri was kept safe while Moyu was able to gather quite a bit of new data about her.

Moyu makes her report to the Chairman, and sure enough, Yuri is an odd one; average human woman at first glance, but all too normal, as in lacking any of the usual slight abnormalities all humans possess. This jibes with a report the Chairman received from both Grand Guignol and the research institute G.E.H.E.N.A. of a joint “test subject” lost at sea.

The two organizations claim Yuri was born from Huge stem cells—a Synthetic Lily. This is not only super illegal but super immoral, but the groups came clean about it anyway because they are demanding she be returned. The Chairman notes that his purview is limited to educating and protecting humans, so if Yuri isn’t human, the law says he must turn her over.

That brings us to Kaede, the daughter of the Chairman of Grand Guignol, calling her father in the middle of the night. Has she been a Guignol plant, and all of her fawning over Riri been an act? Or is she turning traitor now only because her father’s prized test subject has mistakenly fallen into Yurigaoka’s custody?

For now, I’m inclined to believe the latter is the case. Even if Kaede wasn’t always a spy for her father, she clearly takes deep pride in being her father’s daughter, and her loyalty to him may simply trump her loyalty to anyone else, even Riri and her Legion. If that’s the case, Yuri could be in grave danger.


3 1/2 Stars

Fruits Basket – 45 – It’s Fine to Be Buttoned Up Wrong

We return to Kaibara High as Yuki, Kakeru and the StuCo prepare for the Cultural Festival. Kakeru asks why Yuki has yet to acquire a cell phone, which requires a parent’s sign-off, and Yuki states it’s partly because his family is like shirt “buttoned up wrong”—an expression Kakeru loves.

As the they approach the office, a book flies through the window of the door, shattering the glass. Inside it looks like a tornado went off, and Machi stands alone in there, looking mortified. Kakeru asks the others to leave things to him, and Yuki notes that it’s not the first time.

What is Machi to Kakeru? Well, since he now trusts Yuki, Kakeru confides in him something the other StuCo members don’t know: he and Machi are stepsiblings, with the same father. He brings up a recent heated dispute over succession going on between their mothers, with Kakeru being the older male heir but whose mother was a mistress, and Machi being a younger female but her mother being her father’s wife.

Initially, Kakeru and Machi were caught in the middle at a time when Kakeru took everything his parents and other adults said as gospel. But eventually, he came to see how he was “mixed up in something dumb” and freed himself by acting out, which led his mom to withdraw him from consideration for succession. This means Machi stands alone as the potential successor—or would be, if her gender didn’t complicate matters.

As Kakeru puts it, he may be free, but Machi may not be. Trashing the StuCo office is akin to what he did one night during dinner, only in private; a dry run that lacks the stakes of the real thing. Yuki is able to put his own family troubles into perspective learning that plenty of other families have issues and are similarly “buttoned up wrong,” but also acknowledges that family can’t change, so you just have to live with it. Yuki ends up tossing up the pile of papers they had just reorganized.

It’s a gesture that says it’s okay to accept the things you cant control, and even laugh them off. Yuki then takes the application to his mom, who signs it without complaint. Before Yuki takes his leave, she says perhaps the most “parent-like” thing she’s ever said to him: “D-don’t spend too much time on the phone.” The surprise of hearing those words from her and the awkwardness with which she said them bring a smile and chuckle to Yuki’s face.

The next day, Machi returns to the office to apologize and promise not to trash it ever again (a promise she’s made before), and while Nao continues to fume and scold (he’s really annoying this week), Yuki follows Tooru’s example, asking Machi if instead of simply making such a promise not to do it, to help them understand why she did it.

The other members of StuCo (minus Nao) are impressed with his display of empathy and kindness, but Yuki realizes he’s late for his class meeting to announce the roles for Cinderella, which the class will be performing for the festival. Abstaining from the role of prince due to his workload, a reluctant Kyou is chosen as the prince and Saki(!) as (potentially “Wicked”) Cinderella.

As for Tooru? She’ll be an evil stepsister, and she assures Yuki she’ll work hard to be “more evil than the devil himself!” Uh…yeah. Uh-huh. Members of Prince Yuki hope her role as villainess will hurt her standing with Yuki, but they’re so clueless it’s almost sad. Arisa doesn’t see why they can’t do a more grown-up play, and she has a point: I just got done watching Sakura’s fifth-grade class perform it!

Shortly after returning to the StuCo office, Yuki accidentally ends up trapped in the storage room, the lock for which is broken. He knocks an open can of black paint(?) which splatters on the wall and his uniform, and suddenly memories of when Akito tried to ratttle him at the beach well up inside him, making him anxious.

Leaving aside whether Miki arranged for him to be locked in there (I’m not sure what her motive would be), it’s Machi who ends up busting through the door to rescue Yuki, stating that she didn’t want him to feel anxious, as if she could sense that indeed he was just that. He quietly thanks her and then goes off with Kakeru for some fresh air.

When he’s feeling better, he pays Kakeru back for his openness by bringing up something he hasn’t brought up to anyone yet, due to it seeming “pitiful and pathetic”: regarding what he “yearns for” in Tooru, which he only just learned was something he shared with Rin. While that thing is left unsaid, I’ll be using “familial love” as a placeholder until Yuki says otherwise, but it could just as easily be “the ability to take care of oneself and others, rather than just be cared for”.

While Yuki’s adventures in StuCo lag far behind Tooru’s new connection with Rin and their efforts to break the curse in importance, it was still rewarding to learn more about Machi and Kakeru’s ties, and see Machi and Yuki become a little closer since he gave her that leaf. I wonder if Yuki sees Machi as an opportunity to prove to himself that he can indeed care for and help others, thus paying forward all that Tooru has done for him. We shall see.

Read Crow’s review of the episode here!

Fruits Basket – 38 (S2 13) – Council of Troublemakers

It’s a new cour, and a new term for Tooru, Yuki, and Kyou, and while Arisa and Saki make a quick appearance at the beginning (confirming that Arisa has had no further contact with Kureno), this episode is not about the main crew at all. It’s all about Yuki, and his ability to lead the Student Council, which as was hinted at far earlier in the season is packed with some colorful personalities.

First there’s VP Maname Kakeru, who sleeps often, calls the council the “School Defense Force” and does little work. There’s secretary Todou Miki, who looks like Tooru’s twin sister, sounds like cutesy Kagura, but is a first-class stirrer of shit. The high-strung, irritable Sakuragi Naohito and the taciturn treasurer Kuragi Machi round out the crew.

Wrangling these misfits would be a tall task for any president, let alone one who was tortured by a god-child cult leader for years into thinking he’s lower than scum and devoid of hope. Yuki may be committed to a new, more honest and take-charge self, but he still has trouble interacting with people who aren’t family. Heck, he still has trouble with family!

Not only that, Vice President Manabe has a bright, charismatic personality and people are naturally drawn to him, which not only reminds Yuki of his big brother, but also social butterfly Kyou, two people “inner Yuki” has always compared himself to, and found himself wanting. He’s just not sure what to do around a guy like Kakeru, so he withdraws within himself.

When a StuCo session is commandeered by Manabe for the sole purpose of assigning Power Ranger-like colors to each member, Naohito fume, Machi simmers, and Miki eggs everyone on, and Yuki has no idea how to maintain order. The chaos washes around him, even as Manabe names him “Red” simply because he’s the leader, taking the more aloof “Black” for himself. No doubt Yuki sees it the other way.

Things come to a head when, while Yuki carrying seedlings for the gardening club after school, Kakeru confronts him about the nature of his relationship with Tooru. He spotted Kyou walking home with her and judges the guy to look more like Tooru’s boyfriend, and “happier” looking in general. That sets Yuki off, and he unleashes a tirade at Kakeru condeming his apparent hobby of weighing the happiness of others for his own amusement.

Surprisingly, Kakeru kicks the tray of seedlings out of Yuki’s hands. Not one to back down from a confrontation, he calls Yuki out for lecturing him so brazenly. The two bicker, and Yuki eventually admits he was really just lecturing himself, because comparing himself to others is what he always does…or rather did, and wants to stop doing so much.

The StuCo may be full of troublemakers, but Yuki considers himself the biggest of all. Kakeru’s stance softens significantly, and he admits that he’s actually jealous of Yuki for having more empathy and understanding the feelings of others before needlessly hurting them.

Having only just started spending time with Kakeru, it was easy to box him into a caricature, but Yuki learns there’s more to the guy, including a desire to grow and change—even if he naps a bit too much to actually do so! While he was initially weary of the StuCo and his ability to lead, now he looks forward to spending time with Kakeru and the rest of these weirdos.

While I’ve honestly missed Tooru and the rest of the crew these past two weeks, Fruits Basket once again demonstrates it can tell a solid story from anyone’s perspective, and with any combination of main, secondary, and tertiary characters, without breaking a sweat.

Check out Crow’s episode 13 review here!

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 12 (Fin) – Adjusted for Inflation

After the thrilling but nearly completely comedy-free Ishigami Sports Festival denouement, Love is War returns to its bread-and-butter with a relatively understated slice-of-life, life-goes-on finale. We get two stories, the first of which is by far the most emotionally engaging.

The Principal wants to snap photos of the StuCo, but Shinomiya family policy forbids Kaguya’s face from being distributed in any media, so she sits out the shoot. The Principal quickly pulls Miko out of her shell, but gets on Kaguya’s bad side when he pairs Miyuki and Chika as a dating pair.

While Kaguya once looked down on other girls who took pics with their phones, she’s nevertheless come to enjoy documenting her life with the StuCo on her antiquated flip phone (full disclosure: my landlord still has one, and she’s not planning on giving it up anytime soon!).

When the other members insist on including her on a private rooftop shoot, her phone falls off the roof during the exchange with the principal, and it is destroyed, along with all of the data (since it’s not only old, but a weird proprietary phone with no SD storage).

Crestfallen, Kaguya and Ai head to the store to buy the latest smartphone, but she’s thoroughly down that all of her precious memories were lost. The rest of the StuCo picks up on that, so Miyuki finally starts a StuCo LINE group with a shared cloud album, having held off until Kaguya got a smartphone, not wanting to leave her out. Suddenly, her phone, so sad and lonely when new and empty, starts to burst with brilliant 4K HDR photos of the StuCo’s hijinx.

This also serves as a curtain call for some of the most indelible images from this marvelous season. Kaguya’s blank look of quiet despair becomes a gleaming smile, and the five StuCo members pose for another group photo. Needless to say, Kaguya wins, having lost a low-res flip-phone album but gained a much more comprehensive hi-res one.

The majority of final segment feels like a stakes-free epilogue that could also have aired at any point this season. It makes a point to demonstrate that despite all the development these characters have gone through, they can still fall into their old habits, whether it’s Miyuki worried about Kaguya saying “How Cute” to Yuu losing his nerve.

The premise is easy enough, and starts out as a very direct double entendre involving pumping. Chika has a big balloon leftover from the sports fest, and pulls everyone into an increasingly stressful game in which each player must pump at least once, but if the balloon bursts, they lose. Chika actually gets poor obedient kohai Miko to pump the most, but lets her stop before it bursts.

This leaves Miyuki and Kaguya as the last two to pump, and they too survive, but when Chika gets a drop of tangerine juice on the paper-thin rubber, a cataclysmic explosion occurs that destroys the entire academy. As the credits zoom horizontally from right-to-left (a la Chihayafuru), both Kaguya and Miyuki, who survived the blast, are determined to get the other to take their hand.

What sets this interaction apart from so many past ones is that for once their wavelengths are perfectly aligned and they each get what they wanted, which was to hold the other’s hand without saving face or enduring mockery. It’s the perfect way to wrap up this momentous second season, while creating hope for a third one.

Still, I’d be very surprised (and delighted!) if a potential third episode surpassed this second, which goes down as one of the best second seasons of anime ever. MAL has it at #22 all time, and I think that’s a little low. I’ve savored every minute, and now that it’s over for now I shall miss it dearly!

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 11 – The Other Side of the Story

The Cheer Squad’s cross-dressing skit goes off without a hitch, pleasing Yuu, who feared everyone would think he was gross. He starts to finally think about enjoying life more instead of dwelling on past regrets and failures…only for the greatest regret of his life to show up to anti-cheer him.

Just as Yuu is drafted to fill in for an injured Kazeno as anchor on the club relay race, all of the past unpleasantness rushes back into the forefront of his mind. All his ears hear around him are the discouraged and annoyed voices of the crowd cursing his name and everything about him.

The mystery girl who arrives is Otomo Kyouko, who was neither a crush nor a friend in middle school. She was just a kind classmate who’d look out for him whenever she could. She was a good person. Then she started dating Ogino Kou, whom Yuu soon learns is cheating on Kyouko with other girls.

Honestly I don’t remember middle school being this sexed up, but Kou further demonstrates how pure a scum he truly is by refusing to stop cheating, then using footage of Kyouko on his phone to threaten Yuu into silence.

Not about to let a good person, even someone who’s barely an acquaintance get hurt by a bad one, Yuu’s sense of justice curdles into rage before the despicable Kou, and he punches the shit out of him in the middle of class. He aimed to ruin his face so no girl would approach it again, but Kou quietly threatens to abuse Kyouko if Yuu doesn’t stand down.

If that wasn’t enough, Kou also loudly professes that Yuu is a stalker. To both her and everyone else around, it looks like a crazed Yuu is beating up her boyfriend because he’s jealous and obsessed, and he’s too shocked by how badly things are going for him to defend himself, though I doubt it would have helped.

For the assault, Yuu is suspended for a month and ordered to write a letter of apology to Kou, but despite writing and erasing over the paper hundreds of times, he’s unable to write a single word of anything; neither a false apology nor an indictment of Kou’s own misdeeds. In his absence at school his reputation as a creep crystallizes.

Back in the present, the relay anchors are ordered to their marks, but Yuu is so out of it he forgets what color team he’s on…until Miyuki puts his red headband on his head and offers him words of encouragement and a pat on the back. This mirrors Miyuki’s eventual visit to Yuu’s house to present the “Student Council Secret Report” he prepared with Miyuki and Chika.

While Miyuki doesn’t judge whether Yuu’s actions were right or wrong (merely that they could have been better), he cannot deny that Yuu’s ultimate objective was to protect Otomo Kyouko, and that objective was achieved when Kou broke up with her days after the beating. Turns out all those months of refusing to apologize made Kou paranoid, and he released his grip on the poor girl.

However, Kyouko never saw this report, and still has the same idea of what went down. She still believes Kou to be a good guy and blames Yuu for their breakup. She came to the festival specifically to “unload” on Yuu, but rather than continue to wallow in despair, Yuu draws strength from the knowledge someone—specifically Miyuki, Kaguya and Chika—learned his side of the story and supported him.

So before running his leg of the relay, Yuu responds to Kyouko’s heckling with the same words Miyuki wrote in thick black permanent marker way outside the gridlines of the apology letter stock…so hard that to this day the ink residue is embedded in the desk: GO TO HELL, DUMBASS.

As the race progresses, Yuu is determined to win. He believes he has to win to prove he truly “shake Kyouko off” and move on with his life. Kaguya and Miyuki and Chika cheer him on, hoping the good person they know can overcome adversity. Kobachi loudly cheers him on, while Miko, who helped get Yuu reinstated, cheers for him almost under her breath—but with no less conviction.

Yuu ends up losing by a hair. Like the lack of a forced reconciliation with Kyouko, the defeat is an excellent subversion of how these races usually go. But the fact is, he still tried his best and his cheer squad comrades appreciate that. Koyasu, the pink-haired girl, even tears up, so moved by his genuine frustration. Rather than calling him a loser and failure and weirdo like he feared, they tell him he did good.

Suddenly, as his tears give way and his field of vision clears, he can finally see the EYES of the cheer squad members, a pack of Normies with whom he thought he’d never get along and inherently distrusted due to past traumas. But there they are in all their glory. We’d never seen their eyes either because Yuu never looked at them properly. Now he does, and he’s elated to discover they’re all good people.

As Kyouko departs, she tells her former classmates she was glad to be able to give Yuu a piece of her mind, and leaves Shuchiin with fun memories despite how things turned out. As Kaguya and Ai observe, she’s blissfully ignorant, but the smile she wears as she leaves is the very thing Yuu worked and suffered to protect, and he succeeded.

That Yuu would do that for a classmate he barely knew, at the cost of so much personal turmoil and with no reward, then he must be the very best quality of person. It’s no wonder he was recruited into the StuCo. This episode of Love is War had virtually no jokes or gags, but it didn’t matter. What it offered instead was masterful character drama, further cementing its status as Anime of the Year.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 10 – How A Net Feels

Just as it excels when it focuses on just one or two segments, Love is War is arguably even better at juggling a grab bag of stories in one episode. We get the latter this week and it’s all amazing, starting with Miyuki’s mistaken belief that Kaguya is avoiding him because she doesn’t like him. Kei wants to ask about his romance problems, but because she’s in her teenage rebellious phase, talking to him would mean losing face.

When their father comes home and asks Miyuki what’s up, Kei thinks she’s in the clear, but her father only makes Miyuki more tight-lipped and mad, so Kei has no choice but to offer a piece of advice: a girl can still like you even if it seems like they’re avoiding you. Sure enough, when Miyuki and Kaguya cross paths, she uses her calming ritual and the two walk side-by-side to the office. Miyuki had no reason to despair.

The next segment is the latest installment of the “Chika Teaches Miyuki Things He Sucks At” series, and, clocking in at around six miuntes, one of the quickest and most efficient. This time she’s trying to teach him the Soran dance his class will perform, but his idea of dancing looks more like an exorcism. When she finally loses her patience and storms out, Miyuki ends up relying on an Kaguya for pointers (Kaguya is more than happy for an opportunity to touch his body, the lecher!)

As Chika observes Kaguya’s strategy of simply getting Miyuki to replicate the moves irrespective of heart or passion, her honor as an artist must stand and protest, leading to a literal tug-of-war between the two girls. This mimics how historical Edo magistrate Ooka Echizen ordered two women resolve a custody battle for a child, with the winner being the first one to release the child when he was in pain.

In this case, no one’s letting go, but being pulled back and forth is exactly what Miyuki needed to learn what it was like to be the fishermens’ net, and performs a Soran dance that impresses both Kaguya and Chika.

Following two straight victories by Miyuki, we get a segment from the POV of Kobachi as she and Miko go on their DC rounds. Chika and the board game club doing something akin to LARPing, while they find Yuu playing video games at school. When he points out he’s in territory technically outside their jurisdiction, Miko ropes him and pulls him into it.

Kobachi can tell that while Miko and Yuu don’t get along, they’re a lot more alike than they realize. She knows about the rumors of how Yuu stalked a girl in their class in middle school, fought another boy over her, and got suspended, but notes that Yuu never told his side of the story. And because she knows he has a strong sense of justice and distaste for “irrational things” like Miko, his story is likely more complicated.

I’m sure Kobachi is as eager as me to hear that story someday, but for now, she’s impressed with the strides he’s made, including his participation in the Cheer squad, who unlike the majority of first-years were willing to bring him into the fold and give him a chance, as long as he was applying himself seriously, which he is.

The balance of the episode takes place during the vaunted sports festival. Miyuki and his class perform the Soran dance perfectly, but he’s discouraged to find his dad there rather than at work somewhere, snapping pics of Chika (though that was a request from Chika’s hot-shot dad).

What Miyuki wants to avoid at all costs is his dad getting anywhere near Kaguya, sure that nothing good could come with it. And yet his dad’s advice in the first segment for Miyuki to be the fastest runner, which he dismissed as grade school stuff, actually works like a charm on Kaguya, who despite being on the White team is passionately rooting for the President all the way!

That’s when Miyuki’s dad sidles up to Kaguya without introducing himself and belittles Miyki’s efforts. Kaguya, never one to let people cast aspersions on her beloved Miyuki, offers up all the ways Miyuki is actually a terrific person. When his dad shoots those down one by one, she gets increasingly flustered and annoyed, which leads him to ask not who Miyuki is, but who he is to her.

Kaguya responds with a beautiful monologue from the heart about how Miyuki showed her that not only to kind and wonderful people like him truly exist, but that there are others among her with those qualities (Chika and Yuu, for instance). Miyuki’s dad asks if she’s “romantically interested” just as Miyuki arrives, to which Kaguya compliments Miyuki on having such a “delightfully mischievous” father.

The Cheer squad leader ends up picking Yuu to be his partner in the final relay, and when they win, we cut to the brown-haired girl in the dark flashbacks in which Yuu was accused of stalking and assault.

This certainly lends credence to the theory that not only was Yuu not really stalking her, but that there might even have been mutual affection between them. Will we ever meet this mystery person, and if so, how will this “New Yuu” react? I can’t say, but I’d love to see it.

As it stands, Love is War has deftly and painstakingly painted fully-realized portraits of all four of its main characters plus Miko. It just happens to be both one of the most hilarious comedies in years and a riveting, heartfelt character drama. Shows this unassailably superb don’t come around often. It’s hard to not sound like I’m mindlessly gushing about it, but the excellence is there for all to see.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 09 – Calming Rituals

In the first segment, Miko becomes the protagonist of her own LIW spin-off as she regales Kobachi with harrowing tales of her experiences in the StuCo that have brought her to the brink of resignation. The drama of various incidents she’s witnessed from various doorways are greatly heightened, and their context twisted to feed the narrative of Miyuki as “Lust Incarnate”.

Kobachi assumes Miko has simply misunderstood each of these incidents, but Miko ends up learning the wrong lesson by simply shifting the role of StuCo supervillain from Miyuki to Kaguya, labeling her “Evil Incarnate” and recontextualizing the incidents as engineered by a deviant and sadistic mind.

However, Kaguya’s response when Miko confronts her—phrased as “What do you think of Miyuki?“—garners such an unexpectedly pure and guileless response, Miko is left not knowing what to think of everything she’s seen and heard…which means she loses.

The next segment is Kaguya-centric and builds on the purity of her response. She’s been avoiding Miyuki ever since her hospital visit, lamenting to Hayasaka how she’s become incapable of staying calm and collected around him. Hayasaka suggests Kaguya takes a page from Ichiro and other sports personalities and adopt a “calming ritual” to steady herself in stressful times.

The process for adopting such a ritual starts with Hayasakai turning on some music and simply having Kaguya dance it out, calling to mind Chika’s awesome dance ED last season as well as being thoroughly adorable. Kaguya eventually settles on touching her left cheek with her right hand, and even impresses Hayasaka with the speed with which she masters the gesture.

However, when it comes time to use it, Kaguya finds herself locked in a Street Fighter II-style match with Miyuki, who unloads a number of special moves that raise her anxiety levels way past safety levels (enter a great momentary cameo by last week’s elite doc…and his theme music).

In the end, despite losing most of her HP Kaguya wins the match by resorting to the use of her black belts in Aikido and Judo, thus freeing her right hand from Miyuki’s grasp. As soon as she touches her cheek she’s calm again…only to immediately lose that calm when she realizes she hurt Miyuki! Still, the ritual worked, so she wins.

In the third and final segment, Yuu rather inexplicably joins the cheerleading squad, which is akin to a polar bear seeking refuge in the middle of the Sahara. He immediately regrets his hasty decision, as he finds himself among members of the “Tribe of Yay!”, while he is, at best, of the “Tribe of Meh”.

When the group agrees on gender-swapping their uniforms, Yuu finds himself in a spot: Miko will refuse because she hates him, Chika will judge him because she’s so real with him, and Kaguya certainly won’t do it because…wait, Kaguya is happy to do it! “Anything for a StuCo colleague in need” and all that.

Kaguya seems to get a kick out of putting Yuu in her school uniform, as well as applying makeup. Miko sees the former (again, sans context) through the partially opened door and flees without comment (another chapter for her spin-off). Then Miyuki peeks through the door as Kaguya is having fun with Yuu and is naturally super-jealous. Oddly, this segment ends without a winner or loser, but promises that Yuu’s story will continue next week during the Sports Festival.

LIW continues to exhibit a strong penchant for diversity in both style and substance, always keeping us on our toes on what it will dish out from segment to segment and yet never letting us down. My only mark against this episode is the dearth of Chika and not quite enough Kobachi, whom I’d like to see more of. But the show has a rare gift for keeping things both fresh and focused. Its characters are always strong and consistent pillars in a motley universe of unpredictable scenarios and cleverly subverted tropes.