Momokuri – 07 + 08

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Rio’s long-distance admiration of Momo progresses when their eyes meet and Momo reaches out in friendship, seeing as how her two best friends know his two best friends. Momo also inadvertantly sets Rio’s heart aflutter when he compliments her height and figure.

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Of course, Kuri also knows Rio, and sees her as a potential ally in her quest to document Momo in every possible condition, such as, say, when he’s in the pool for P.E. Rio feels a hint of kinship with Kuri, but Kuri’s so damn much that it still weirds Rio out in a way Norika is clearly more used to.

Kuri’s desire to meet with Rio meant not walking home with Momo after a long time of doing just that (and only that), so when Momo sees Kuri with Rio, he gets jealous, and gets even more somber when she doesn’t walk with him to school.

Obviously, dude has no reason to worry, since he was the whole reason Kuri met with Rio to begin with, and when he brings up how he’s felt down while they’ve been apart, it gives Momo a nosebleed he quickly and expertly attends to.

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Hearing his lower voice, and his request she not call him feminine, Kuri starts to think of Momo as more than just cute, but also a boy, though she’s still not quite sure what to do about it. After a kick from Norika, she commits to asking him out on a proper date to the beach.

Before she can, Momo steals a march on her, inviting her to a BBQ, along with all of their mutual friends. They both revel in the fact they’re on the phone with one another, to the point Kuri thinks out loud, embarrassing both of them while at the same time being happy the words were said.

These two episodes felt a lot more like a single, standard-length one, and with the BBQ not happening until next week, Momokuri has gotten very serialized. As long as things don’t get too complicated or dramatic…that’s what Orange is for! I like Momokuri because it’s simple, pleasant, and light.

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Momokuri – 05 + 06

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Sakaki Rio, Yuki’s tall, cool, athletic new rival, probably thinks the world is out of alignment, and she simply needs to click it back into a place where she, not Yuki, is by Momo’s side, “protecting his smile”, as anime characters love to do.

That Yuki simply slipped into Momo’s good graces with her Poodle-Maltese-esque cuteness and outwardly easygoing nature; but she doesn’t deserve Momo; not really. He’s Rio’s small, cute animal to protect.

But at the start of the episode, she’s at a distinct disadvantage. She’s in the supermarket. Yuki ends up in Momo’s room, then bed, then enjoys dinner with him. Definite FOMO vibes coming off Rio.

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It wasn’t always that way. She joined the tennis club because Momo thought she’d look cool playing. Then he quit, and she got stuck practicing with the older girls that craved her athletic prowess.

She lost her “in” with him, though she’s still in the same class as him and accepts his offer of ice cream in exchange for her study cards. But it’s clear Momo doesn’t see her at all the way Rio sees him, which is more how he sees Yuki. To Momo, she’s just…a friend.

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Whereas Rio’s effort to get closer to Momo (thru tennis) fizzled out, Yuki has gotten to where she is through relentless effort and persistence, without ever exposing too much of her perv-ier side to Momo. More to the point, he’s all but blind to that side of her-like assuming she was feeling ill when he found her in his bed.

What’s amusing about these two is that Momo is often worried that he’s thinking impure thoughts or being pervy and tries to check himself, while Yuki leaps into that arena with such gusto, she often needs her friend to pull her out, by, say, tossing out Momo’s used straws.

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When she inevitably gets found out by Rio, Rio doesn’t turn it into leverage, because she can’t, not without revealing her own hand to Momo (or worse, coming off as mean or vindictive). She’s also clearly a little afraid of Momo’s intense observation and intel-gathering methods.

But Rio also knows that there’s more to Yuki than she thought …much more, though not all of it necessarily good. Yuki is right that Rio understands how she feels about the addictively-cute Momo, but the sheer intensity of Yuki’s obsession overpowers any resultant shame. Rio just isn’t wired that way, but they both like Momo, so it will be interesting to see how she deals.

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Momokuri – 03 + 04

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Momokuri sticks to is tried-and-true formula of getting comedy out of the fact that Momo isn’t aware of how head-over-heels infatuated with him Yuki actually is. Dialogue cuts to her saying outrageous things that are true to her feelings, but those responses are only imagined.

It creates a nice romantic tension, especially considering Yuki is just as oblivious to the fact that Momo is actually really into her too, just not in the same stalker-y way. He even chokes down black coffee to show how mature he is, a ruse Yuki sees right through but appreciates Momo doing it nonetheless.

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You’d think someone so obsessed with Momo would exert a good deal of energy keeping him away from other girls, but to my (and Norika’s) surprise, she couldn’t care less that the girls in his class are all over him, even on his birthday. It just means more opportunities for her to snap pics of his adorable expressions.

Yuki’s gift for Momo is a homemade cheesecake, but the show doesn’t make a big deal about her being good at baking; she just followed the recipe and it turned out…until she hit a pole and dropped it. Momo ends up giving himself a gift that doubles as a gift for Yuki: a simple holding of hands. He saw the opportunity and took the initiative.

Meanwhile, a short-haired girl lurks around the corner…

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Episode four is all about a study session that Yuki arranges with friends of Momo and Norika. Her motives are twofold: help Momo pass exams so she won’t lose him for two weeks of their Summer to extra classes; and the opportunity to visit his house, see his bed, pillow, air, etc.

Again Momo edits her thoughts when responding to one of Momo’s friends when they ask why she likes Momo. Instead of saying his a godlike being, she merely says he’s cute; something his friends agree on, becaue he’s so wee.

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The study session is an opportunity for Yuki to serve her cheesecake for Momo, and for the two to flirt in the kitchen (provoking a little light ribbing from his pals in the next room). During the studying, Momo notices one of his friends has grown pretty friendly with Yuki; while she’s not the nervous type, he apparently is.

The session goes well into the night, so the girls volunteer to head to the supermarket to buy stuff to make dinner. There, we see the short-haired girl int he track suit once more; this time near Yuki by coincidence.

Momokuri is sweet, funny, and uncomplicated, making it eminently watchable. Will the introduction of a new girl ruin that? I hope not.

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Girl Friend BETA – 04

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GF Beta is a pleasant, ultra-lightweight show, but it’s also oddly ambitious; never more so than this week. Cutting us loose in a universe of roughly fourteen million characters, it appears to clearly favor quantity over quality. And yet, there’s still a quality about that quantity; with such a big, diverse cast, the possibilities for storytelling are almost endless. So far, despite pretty much switching up the order and hierarchy of the focus cast each week, its fresh stories have consistently held my interest.

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Our “anchor” this week is the school radio emcee Sakurai Akane (Satou Rina, who also voices Misaka in Railgun), who finds Shiranui Isuzu (Yuuki Aoi, also Madoka in Madoka) looking over five abandoned kittens. She decides to help Isuzu find them homes, but the students who volunteer need to get good midterm grades to earn their new pets. This is a collection of students whose lives are already packed with extracurricular activities, jobs, and housework; so their grades suffer accordingly. Only the night before do they manage to arrange an all-night study session; Isuzu offers her sprawling home to host it.

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That night, the girls do, well…pretty much everything but study. They’e in awe of their classy traditional surroundings, spend lots of time on introductions, cook dinner, go out to buy snacks, get stuck in the rain, go to a bath house, and return to Isuzu’s home to tell ghost stories.

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When Isuzu comes in to see what the screaming is about, they see the cat on her obi and are reminded of why they’re really there: For the Kittens. The studying then commences in earnest. The night is a fine depiction of the myriad forms of procrastination that can transpire in such scenarios. There’s an epic quality to it that often accompanies all-night scenes where a deadline is nigh.

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The study session proves to be more than just a means of raising the girls’ scores to win kittens (which they do); the group also gained friendships (including the shy Isuzu), and making friends (or exploring why people are friends) is what this show is all about. And everyone was united by Akane, who, wishing to help both the kittens and Isuzu, made the radio announcement.

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Ao Haru Ride – 09

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“Ya got a little schmutz…”

Futaba’s quest to figure out Kou continues, but she’s having trouble finding a way in. She tries to get him to notice her with makeup, and he does, but he rubs it off her lips and knocks it as “not suiting her.” Nine episodes in, and the guy is still playing his cards close. But he has lots of eyes on him now: the circle of friends forged from that day in the classroom.

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Keep it together…

Opportunity presents itself when Shuuko happens to catch her beloved Tanaka-sensei admonishing Kou on the stairs about his subpar midterm grades. Kou, for his part, is willful, threatening to quit school if his grades aren’t good enough to advance, then laughing it off as a joke. For this, Shuuko labels Kou a brat, and rightly so. Futaba sees it as an in: study session!

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“What’s this “lightly salted” bullshit? Where my Consommé at?!”

She’s not the only one interested: Aya defends Kou valiantly against shit-talking advanced class members, but rather than thank the guy who had his back, he asks why he did that, like an idiot. At this point Kou better do or say something mildly redemptive, because Futaba and Yuuri are starting to look like fools themselves for being so into this guy.

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“H-h-h-hey!”

But they can’t help that, and while Futaba takes a low-key approach to interacting with Kou at the study session in his room, Yuuri, feeling like she’s being left behind, takes the initiative, getting Kou alone, and spending a moment with him we only see the beginning and end of, but not the middle.

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“What’s going on in there…”

More likely than not, it was a wordless moment, so both Kou and Yuuri can tell Futaba “nothing at all” happened…but it was still a moment. I gotta say, I can’t yet endorse Yuuri’s taste in guys, but she comported herself well this week. If Futaba knows what’s good for her, she’d better not let her guard down!

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