Hamefura – 08 – Pages of Desire

All Mary Hunt wants is to study alone with her one true love Catarina. Unfortunately, the object of her affection is also the object of everyone else’s, so the study group in the library consists of…everyone. Alas, while taking a break Catarina notices a flashing book on the shelf, and when she opens it, she and everyone except Mary and Maria are sucked inside!

It’s a high concept Hamefura this week, as one by one everyone in the book lives out their deepest desire, as interpreted and amplified by the magic of the book itself. Gerald, for one, reveals some of his sadist qualities in his wedding night desire, or Keith revealing his steamier side in his. Before anything can “happen” between Catarina or anyone, Mary slams the book shut in disgust.

The desire I enjoyed most was Catarina in Sophia’s private library, in which Sophia delivers an epic wall slam to Catarina like she’s the guy in a shoujo manga and declares her love. It’s just a shame nothing more comes of our discovery that Sophia may be the reincarnation of Acchan.

Mary and Maria endure all these desires until they finally come to Catarina, which involves finding an entire house made of sweets, only because the sweets are fictional no matter how much she eats she’s never satisfied. This seems to break the logic of the book, which explodes in a cloud of sweets and the trapped people. All’s well that ends well!

We end with a post-credits scene I found a bit puzzling: Catarina, with no inner monologue at all, ends up barefoot and up a tree with Alan during a gorgeous sunset. Mary spots them and moves to intercept. It’s a pretty scene, but Catarina feels out of character here; certainly have an inner council meeting or two before getting so friendly with Alan…

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 09 – All To Themselves

Pictured: Not Ichika

Yotsuba approaches Fuutarou in the hall with Miku, excited about the upcoming School Camp and the campfire legend, but when it comes time for a study group, Yotsuba runs away and Ichika has a shoot, but not before giving Miku a wig so she can pose as Ichika at her class meeting. However, it turns out a guy in Ichika’s class lied about that meeting so he could ask her to dance with him at the campfire. “Michika” wasn’t ready for this level of acting!

Thankfully Fuutarou was listening in and intervenes when the guy suspects she’s not really Ichika. Miku then offers the excuse that she’s already dancing with Fuutarou at the campfire, and clings to him in order to convince the guy that they’re a couple. Miku even has the gall to ask the guy why one confesses. His answer is because you want that person “all to yourself.” But how does that work if you’re one of “five fifths together as one”?

With that matter settled, the quints (minus Ichika) surprise Fuutarou by taking him out shopping for school camp clothes, all their treat in exchange for serving as their model for their ideal guy getup. Their choices say a lot about their personalities, as Miku chooses traditional garb, Yotsuba chooses loud and gaudy, Itsuki chooses…her idea of tough and manly. Only Nino, who has pretty consistently good fashion sense, seems to take things seriously, choosing a stylish yet understated look.

But when Fuutarou checks his phone, he learns that his beloved Raiha is in bed with a fever. He stays by her side all night and into the morning. He misses the bus for camp, but he says it doesn’t matter. The heavily worn camp leaflet suggests otherwise, and both his dad and Raiha know it. Raiha contacts Itsuki, who comes to fetch Fuutarou.

To his surprise, the four other quints are with her; the six of them will head to camp by car (specifically the family’s custom six-door E-Class Benz). He reveals once they’re on the road (but stuck in traffic) that other than their place, he hasn’t spent a night away from home since elementary school, and all that pent up excitement seems to have bestowed him with a “traveler’s high,” combined with the scant amount of sleep he got due to watching over Raiha. That doesn’t save him from a savage backdoor flip-off from Nino!

They’re not able to make it to camp due to a winter storm, so Fuutarou and the quints shack up at a fancy hot springs inn. Nino warns her sisters how men can transform into wolves under such conditions, but since this is a harem rom-com there isn’t any other choice: the six of them have to share a single room intended for only four.

Before a sumptuous feast that will put tomorrow’s curry to shame, Miku informs Ichika of what she did to preserve her cover, namely say Ichika was going to dance with Fuutarou. Ichika, harboring her own feelings for the guy, is fine with the arrangement, especially if it’s okay with Miku, while Miku is fine with it because it was the result of her lie, and because she doesn’t consider Ichika a romantic rival. And considering how little she understands love and dating, it’s no wonder!

After dinner the sisters make avail themselves of the outdoor hot baths. Nino again implores everyone to remain vigilant, as Fuutarou’s traveler’s high makes him that much more of an unpredictable threat. In order to mitigate that threat, she gets them to all part their hair the same way so he won’t know who he’s sleeping beside. All this caution and planning are moot, as Fuutarou is totally passed out when they return to the room.

The next morning, which is bathed in heavenly light, Ichika finds herself dangerously close to a still-sleeping Fuutarou, having drifted there in her sleep. She’s happy to get another look at him asleep and draws even closer , admitting to herself that if this makes her lose her Ichika cool, she can’t exactly refer to him as “just a friend.”

When Itsuki pops in to announce breakfast, she catches a glimpse of Ichika looming over Fuutarou, though it’s such a short look before she retreats she’s not 100% sure which sister it was, only that it was one of them and she has no idea what to make of that!

Fuutarou’s Wardrobe by Nino

To summarize, Ichika’s becoming more honest with herself about Fuutarou and Miku may have just gifted her a crucial leg-up in that pursuit. Yotsuba is throwing out all kinds of hints, Itsuki wants to determine if Fuutarou is an “apt tutor” by maintaining proper distance, and Nino longs for Fuutarou’s bad boy “relative”, genuinely unaware the photo is of Fuutarou himself.

Finally, Ichika’s career is taking off, which means she may soon have to change schools to make it work. With all these emotions and developments swirling around the qunits, this could prove to be a school camp for the ages: marking an end to some things and the beginning of others. In other words, buckle up!

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 08 – Somebody That He Used to Know

I know it’s usually the case in these kinds of shows that the less we know about the protagonist the better, but considering how much we’re learning about the five Nakano quintuplets, it was only a matter of time before we finally got a little more insight into where their tutor came from.

We know Fuutarou’s dad seems a lot carefree and “wilder” than his serious son. But it wasn’t always that way; Fuutarou used to be a wild man just like his old man, and still carries a photo in his student handbook to prove it. Pops also says that he transformed into the young man he is now shortly after meeting a certain girl. The plot thickens.

At Casa Nakano Miku ends up being the one to disrupt lessons when she becomes determined to make the perfect croquette, leading Fuutarou to overeat. When Nino and Itsuki prepare to leave for lunch, Fuutarou begs Yotsuba to keep them there, and she demonstrates how bad a liar she is by saying Fuutarou is so ill moving will kill him.

Still, Itsuki sits beside him and Nino whips up some porridge, showing that each and every one of them is a good girl at heart. Alas, when Nino slips on the ketchup Futaoru used to simulate coughed-up blood, the hot porridge spills on his face and he moves around…without dying.

Nino and Itsuki bail in outrage, leaving Fuutarou alone with Yotsuba. When she laments how little she’s been able to change, Fuutarou reassures her: she was the one sister who was honest, straightforward, and friendly from the start, and without her his job would have been impossible.

When he says she’s too straightforward to lie properly, Yotsuba draws in close—too close; intimately close—to tell Fuutarou she can’t help but be straightforward…she likes him. After an appropriate beat to allow Fuutarou’s heart to stop, a wide Cheshire Cat grin sprouts from her face…she was “just kidding”, and can lie just fine when she wants to. The question is, was she really lying?!

Back at school we learn School Camp is coming up, always fertile ground for rom-com events. The task of running the Test of Courage is foisted upon Fuutarou, who is determined to get back at his class by scaring the shit out of them. His clown mask is certainly effective on Yotsuba.

Ichika then shows up to tell him she can’t sit in on the lesson because she has a shoot, and proactively gives him her contact info so she can tell him in advance of schedule conflicts. Only that’s not her only reason: not thirty seconds after receiving his number, she texts him a photo of him sleeping on her lap, which she threatens to distribute to the others unless he acquires her sisters’ contacts as well.

It’s a diabolical and very Ichika scheme, in keeping with her promise to help him out by letting him help himself, in this case by earnestly reaching out to the others. Getting Miku’s number is easy (and she’s eleated to have his), and he bribes Itsuki by throwing in Raiha’s contact info with his own. Nino’s a tougher cookie, but FOMO forces her hand as well, and she writes her info in Fuutarou’s handbook.

While giving Fuutarou her info, Yotsuba gets a call from the basketball club. Wondering if she’s the world’s biggest pushover or is maliciously agreeing to anything to avoid studying (why not both?), a suspicious Fuutarou follows her, only to be pleasantly surprised when she gives the club her regrets: she tells them about her “previous engagement” and the “someone who’s spurring me on, even though I have no talent.”

Fuutarou may may light of Yotsuba’s ditziness, but he shouldn’t throw stones in glass houses, as he doesn’t realize Nino still has his handbook until he’s home that evening! The next morning Miku lets him in her room, and catches her asleep in a very unglamorous position.

Nino agrees to let the infraction pass if he agrees to pierce her ears, the tool for which she got from Ichika. Despite his hostility towards him, it says a lot about how she really feels about him that he’d ask her to do something so personal for her. But he uses her moment of vulnerability to try to snag the handbook, and it falls to the ground, revealing the picture of a “hot guy” who is just Nino’s type.

Perhaps due to his pierced ear and bleached hair, Nino doesn’t recognize it as a younger Fuutarou, and Fuutarou claims it’s just a “relative” he’ll introduce to her some day. But Fuutarou is just relieved to have the photo back before she saw the other half, which stayed folded over. The second half reveals the girl he met five years ago whom his father mentioned led to his metamorphosis in to an ace student.

Just as Nino shows her sisters an album with a photo from those same five years ago. It’s now indisputable: Fuutarou’s first love was one of the quints. Only we just don’t know which one, since they all looked exactly alike five years ago. Fuutarou changed quite a bit too, so neither side recognizes the other from the past…unless that certain one of them does remember and is keeping it a secret.

This is all great stuff! I’m actually glad there’s a deeper connection, and I love a good wholuvit mystery. A lot happened and was introduced in this episode, and it didn’t always connect organically, but QQ has more than earned my faith in its ability to develop its new plot points and tap the new central mystery for drama and possibly resolve it in a smart and entertaining manner.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 07 – Changing Hair, Saving Face

In the morning, Ichika is awake earlier than usual: still later than the other quints but apparently still before Fuutarou. She, Nino and Itsuki assume Miku woke up earlier still and Yotsuba is out looking for her. Thankfully no one assumes Miku went back to sleep in her own bed, forgetting Fuutarou was spending the night.

Five sisters, five bedrooms, and five wake-up times mixed up lend Fuutarou a fighting chance of keeping Nino and Itsuki from discovering something they’d probably never forgive him for. And he could really use a break where those two are concerned.

Thankfully, Ichika is as good as her word when it comes to doing her part to mend fences. Itsuki feels she’s at an impasse; that no matter how hard she tries she and Fuutarou simply can’t get along and butt heads over issues big and small. But unlike Nino, she is trying. Itsuki truly is a lot like Fuutarou in that they both realize they were in the wrong and want to make up, but aren’t sure how.

That’s when Ichika gets an idea: what if Itsuki saved face…by changing her hairstyle to that of Miku’s and approaching Fuutarou that way? Ichika tussles and teases her hair, and even Nino gets in on the fun, making sure the disguise job is done right. When she knocks on Miku’s door, Fuutarou answers, but realizes it’s Itsuki from her pajamas. After awkwardly dismissing her, he retreats to the library with Ichika, meeting up with Yotsuba.

While Itsuki’s gesture ended in failure, she and Fuutarou get a second chance when Ichika asks him to go back and grab her pencil case from home. At the front door the real Miku is about to leave for the library, and tries to ask Fuutarou about their sleeping arrangements, but Fuutarou reflects.

Back in the apartment, Itsuki’s hair is back to normal but she’s fallen asleep studying at the desk with Miku’s headphones. Fuutarou wakes her up, and they proceed to pretend that he’s mistaking her for Miku trying to skip out on studying at the library. In the midst of the charade he manages to slip in a knowing apology, and Itsuki is able to apologize in return.

You can really feel how happy and relieved both Fuutarou and Itsuki are to have made up, and how much Itsuki appreciates being praised for getting as far as she’s gotten studying alone out of stubbornness. Neither party is presented as unreasonable, just hesitant to lose face or make things worse.

They only needed the right conditions to reconcile, and thanks to Ichika, they got them. With that, four of the five quints are now in the study group, and Fuutarou spends their final day and night before the exams at their place helping them cram. But when the morning arrives, everyone oversleeps, and they have to make an epic mad dash to school.

This dash scene is heavily symbolic of all the growth in Fuutarou’s relationship with the quints. Where once they were all running from him, now they’re running with him, hopefully towards academic victory. As the most athletic of all of them, Yotsuba takes a huge lead, while Itsuki’s sudden hunger pangs require a konbini detour.

The result is everyone but Yotsuba is a few minutes late. In order to get past the strict teacher guarding the entrance, each of the quints dons a Yotsuba ribbon to disguise themselves as the sister who arrived on time. Fuutarou also tries this tactic—because honestly, why not?!—but it fails and he gets in trouble. But the quints are safe and sound, and as he’s dragged to the faculty office, he shouts out some final words of encouragement.

It turns out Itsuki learned from her father that he planned to ask for Fuutarou’s resignation if any of them failed. Knowing that, Itsuki redoubled her studying efforts, for, as she says, “Raiha-chan’s sake”. Yet even though Nino already knew he’d get canned, which is what she wanted from the start, she’s still determined to do her best out of pride, even without Yotsuba’s urging.

Unfortunately in such a short time and with so many distractions and setbacks, Fuutarou could only do so much for the quints. As a result, each of them only passes one out of the five subjects each. True to form, each quint passed a different subject, with Miku scoring the highest single score in social studies.

Fuutarou gathers the quints in the library, resigned to his fate, and gets on the horn to their dad to recommend he find them a better tutor before reporting the midterm scores. But then, without warning, Nino snatches the phone out of his hand and has a little chat with her Papa. She asks why he set such a harsh condition, and confirms it was a test to determine if Fuutarou was the right fit. Nino tells her dad they won’t know that just from their grades, to which he responds it’s the primary factor.

Then Nino does something Fuutarou never thought in a million years she’d do, considering her attitude towards him thus far: lie to her dad, for his sake. Well, not lie exactly, but nevertheless a lie through omission of the full truth. Her precise wording is “The five of us together avoided failing all five subjects.” Her dad believes Nino, because she carries that clout, and agrees to let Fuutarou continue to tutor them.

Fuutarou surely wasn’t the only factor in Nino’s change of heart. She has her sisters and their respective futures to consider, and wouldn’t want to hurt them by taking away a tutor with whom they’re making legitimate progress. She probably also remembered that if Fuutarou were canned it would also hurt Raiha.

But Fuutarou himself was a key factor for Nino nevertheless, and ensuring he sticks with the group is both a vote of confidence and a challenge for him to not squander the life line she secured for him. Her white lie worked this time, but probably won’t work again.

With that, Yotsuba suggests they start reviewing their answers, but Fuutarou remembers the importance of rewards for a job well done, and treats the quints to parfaits, getting them to explode with laughter just by saying “parfaits.” As for Fuutarou’s own scores? 100s on everything. Tutoring the quints didn’t result in the slightest drop. He can do this. They can do this!

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 06 – Dad Wants Results

As a result of all his help at the fireworks festival, Fuutarou is well-liked enough by Ichika that she walks to school with him, something any lad in his right mind would die for! But as good terms as he’s on with the eldest quint, the youngest continues to harbor a deep animosity for him.

Itsuki still holds a grudge for him refusing to help her study back when they met. She and Nino remain outside the study circle, and his attempts to convince them to join it are rejected with prejudice. That said, Fuutarou was way too loose with his words to Nino in front of her friends, making it sound like the two of them slept together!

Fuutarou remains committed to studying, so he declines to join Ichika, Miku and Yotsuba for parfaits, but Itsuki flags him down on the way home and puts him on the phone with their father, who informs Fuutarou in no uncertain terms that he expects results for his investment: if any of his daughters fails the upcoming midterms, he’ll be fired.

It’s a gut punch for Fuutarou, who doesn’t immediately react well to the warning, as he takes out his anxiety on Itsuki, who is convinced he’s only doing this for the money and doesn’t want his half-assed help after rejecting her. The two end things in a bad place, declaring they’ll never work with one another ever.

When Fuutarou comes to the quints’ place so he work with Ichika, Miku, and Yotsuba, Itsuki is nowhere to be found, but Nino is around, so he can’t let the others know the cost of failure lest Nino exploit that information to sabotage him. Nino gets the info anyway when she pretends to be Itsuki while Fuutarou is in the bath. I guess her goodwill toward him didn’t last past the fireworks festival, huh?

Meanwhile, Ichika has picked up on Miku’s feelings for Fuutarou, and makes every effort to put the two in closer contact with one another, from insisting Fuutarou spend the night (hence the bath) to plain ol’ shoving Miku into Fuutarou’s chest, then having Yotsuba check his pulse…which is high, but to be fair Yotsuba chased him around the house!

When Miku comes right out and asks him what type of girl he likes, Fuutarou only doles out his three top qualities in a girl after the three each complete a page of notes. Ichika invites Fuutarou onto the balcony for a break, and brings up his fight with Itsuki. She sees Itsuki and Fuutarou as “too alike” for their own good, but thinks it’s fine for friends to fight, but as friends, not sworn enemies.

She also knows both of them are stubborn and its holding up their reconciling. She’ll do what she can for him, but at the end of the day it’s up to him to make things right with her. Fuutarou is impressed with how much of an “oldest sister” Ichika is, and follows her advice to praise her by patting her head, causing her to blush profusely.

Still, Ichika is being the good big sister by deferring to Miku’s feelings regarding Fuutarou…at least for now. When it’s time for bed, Miku bunks with Ichika and volunteers her bed for him, only to drowsily return to her bed out of habit after going to the bathroom. Fuutarou wakes up to find Miku curled up beside him!

Whatever consequences result from this innocent mix-up will pale in comparison to what happens if any of the sisters fails the midterms. This isn’t just about Fuutarou losing his job and the money his family needs. He’ll suddenly be cut off from the five young women who are gradually helping him grow as a person, just as he’s helping them. So I hope, for all their sakes, he finds a way to help them all pass.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 03 – In Good Faith

When Fuutarou arrives at the sisters’ apartment building for the next tutoring session, he’s determined not to slip up, yet is flummoxed by the auto-lock door and intercom. Fortunately, Miku is not only forgiving, but welcoming.

So far I’m thoroughly  enjoying the variety of the sisters’ greetings, and what those say about them:

Episode 2
Itsuki: “Wh-What? Stop staring. It’s rude.”
Yotsuba: “Good Morning!”
Nino: “You again?”
Ichika: “Hey, Fuutarou-kun.”
Miku: “…”

Episode 3
Miku: [Cheerfully] “You’re going to tutor us, aren’t you?”
Itsuki: “So you had to come.”
Yotsuba: “Welcome, Uesugi-san!”
Nino: [Glares, slams door]
Ichika: [Still in bed]

Fun details like this help up the sense of chaos and the difficulty level of Fuutarou’s task. When he has four of the five gathered for the session, he takes a moment to admire the progress he’s made. But in fairness, Yotsuba’s friendliness was pre-loaded into the equation. The only real progress he made has been with Miku.

While Ichika is sleepy and disinterested and Itsuki passively abstains from his tutoring, Nino is by far the most hostile, and proceeds to actively sabotage Fuutarou’s efforts by clearing out the room one sister at a time. Yotsuba has to sub in for the basketball team. Ichika has to get to work. Itsuki will have more quiet at the library.

That just leaves Miku, who genuinely wants Fuutarou to teach her history. Nino takes a different tack with her, suggesting her interest in Fuutarou is romantic and insulting her taste in men. When Miku stands up for herself, Nino challenges her to a cooking contest to determine who’s more homely.

Under ideal circumstances Nino would win this one running away. But since Fuutarou is poor, frugal, and has an underdeveloped palate, he judges both their dishes to taste good, resulting in a tie. Then again, Miku’s omerice may just look awful but taste great; inner beauty and all that.

A telling sign of Nino’s true beef with Fuutarou comes when Miku blushes with pride when Fuutarou’s praise for a dish she had no confidence in. Nino can see the effect Fuutarou has on her sister, and she hates it. Still, Nino wins the day, because thanks to all her stalling tactics there was never any actual tutoring.

Not only that, Fuutarou’s own confidence has taken a hit, as he no longer believes it’s possible to get along with Nino in this world. Miku disagrees, assuring him if he approaches her in good faith she’ll come around…but it’s up to him to determine how to do that. Fuutarou then takes off, but forgets his flash cards, and Miku buzzes him back in before taking a shower.

He returns to find Miku is already out of the shower and is drying her hair. But wait, that’s not Miku, it’s Nino! I’m not sure if Fuutarou is colorblind, but one thing’s for sure: Nino is almost blind full stop. She mistakes Fuutarou for Miku, apologizes for how she acted, but blames Fuutarou for inciting the enmity between them.

When Nino asks “Miku” to grab her contacts, Fuutarou can’t find the appropriate shelf, so Nino comes to help look and gets very close to him. When he withdraws, she assumes Miku is still mad and has a mini-tantrum, bumping her arm on the cabinet and shifting some books. Fuutarou dives onto her to shield her, and she finally realizes there’s an intruder in the house.

Fuutarou tries to explain but is interrupted by Itsuki, who snaps a compromising photo that, if taken out of context, could ruin Fuutarou’s chances of ever setting foot in their apartment again. This is, of course, what Nino has been lobbying for from the get-go.

An impromptu tribunal of the quintuplets is then enjoined, with Ichika presiding as judge (you better call her “Your Honor”!), Itsuki as the prosecution, and Miku as the defense. When Miku clarifies that she let Fuutarou back in to get (not take) his flash cards, Nino again accuses her of having feelings for the guy.

When Nino and Miku’s bickering intensifies, Itsuki tries to restore calm, but is brusquely dismissed by both of them (she is the youngest after all). Ichika then recalls how well they all used to—past tense—get along as sisters, which is the last straw for Nino, who runs right out of the apartment. Miku tells Fuutarou to let her be, and Raiha informs him dinner is ready, so Fuutarou takes his leave.

On his way out he encounters Nino skulking outside, and takes a seat opposite the door with the excuse that he doesn’t want to go home until he’s “solved a problem” on one of his flash cards. In reality, he wants to once again approach Nino in good faith. He’s realized now that she considers the apartment to be their place (as in her sisters’), and that an outsider like Fuutarou has no place there.

Fuutarou can relate, having a sister himself whom he loves more than anyone else, and would never want her to hate him. But rather than come to a breakthrough in his favor, Nino resolves to not accept him as her tutor, even if it makes all her sisters hate her. Thus Nino cements her role as the toughest nut to crack so far. But if anything is worth doing…

Taketatsu Ayana, veteran sister seiyu, is really the ideal voice for Nino: with a sharp confrontational edge by default balanced by a tender vulnerability under the right conditions. The question is, will Fuutarou ever learn what those conditions are? Based on this weeks events, not anytime soon! Fortunately, he has other fish to fry (i.e. quintuplets to recruit) who may not be quite as obstinate as Nino.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 02 – Matcha Soda

While there are a couple of friendly voices among them (namely Ichika and Yotsuba), as a group the Nakano quints are adamantly opposed to being tutored by Fuutarou. When he challenges them to score at least a 50 in a test he provides, they manage to score 100…combined. They then physically run away from him, but they underestimate how bad he needs the money, not to mention not shirking from this challenge is a matter of personal pride.

Fuutarou knows the sisters hate studying—and him, Yotsuba and Ichika aside—but he’s determined to find a way to get to them, even if it’s one sister at a time. This week his focus is on the third sister Miku, the only one to score a certain question correctly. When he approaches her about it he’s interrupted by Yotsuba and then Ichika, the latter of which thinks they should be more focused on falling in love than studying.

Little does Ichika know that Miku has already fallen in love…with Sengoku period warlords. She slips what looks like a love letter in Fuutarou’s desk and meets him on the rooftop to confess that love, which he thought for a minute was love for him. She dismisses her encyclopedic knowledge of them to be something weird, but he encourages her to have faith in what she likes, finally seeing a path to get her excited about studying.

Miku initially agrees to let him tutor her, but when she offers him a can of her favorite matcha soda and mentions it doesn’t have snot in it, Fuutarou fails to identify the reference, and she recinds her offer to cooperate, labeling him as “all talk.” This irks him, so he checks every Sengoku book in the library, and the next day challenges her to a trivia game. Because it’s a subject near and dear to her heart, he knows she won’t back down.

However, she not only backs down, but runs away, forcing Fuutarou to chase after her as they play a game of warlord shiritori, until they both collapse from exhaustion. Miku removes her stockings and shoes and relaxes on a bench as Fuutarou gets her a matcha soda and tells her he figured out the snot reference—but only after Yotsuba googled it for him. Miku reiterates her lack of confidence in herself, telling him she’s the “biggest loser” of the group, and that her four sisters can do anything she can.

Fuutarou counters by showing her the sisters’ test answers, which show that no sisters got the same answers right. That means it goes both ways: Miku can do anything her sisters can, if she applies herself. Fuutarou can see light at the end of the tunnel; if each quintuplet has a specialty that will help make being tutored acceptable, than he can pool their collective knowledge to help them all succeed.

But while he seeks to be the grand uniter of the quintuplets, for now it’s just Yotsuba and Miku who have stopped running away from studying, and from him. Complicating matters is Yotsuba’s suspicion that Miku is in love with Fuutarou, which Miku neither confirms nor denies but blushes an awful lot when pressed. This proves to be a fascinating journey!

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 01 (First Impressions) – Five Times the Tutoring Trouble

Uesugi Fuutarou is a studious loner from a poor family trying to have his frugal lunch when an unfamiliar redhead in the uniform of another school tries to take a seat at the same spot with a 1000-yen megafeast. When he starts rudely studying in front of her, she spots the 100-scored exam he blatantly left out in the open, and she gets an idea: this guy could help her study! Instead, he storms off, telling her she’ll gain weight if she keeps over-ordering lunch. Wrong answer, pal!

Fuutarou later realizes the error of his ways, especially when his sister Raiha informs him that a lucrative tutoring job is available, and the redhead is the client. It turns out this girl, one Nakano Itsuki, is one of five quintuplets who have transferred to the school, all of them in need of tutoring. His other initial interactions include the flirty, teasing Ichika and the friendly Yotsuba. The quiet Miku and hostile Nino round out the quintet.

When Fuutarou arrives at the sisters’ opulent penthouse apartment, he’s met with resistance at nearly every turn, with the exception of the kind Yotsuba, who tries to help him wrangle her skeptical sisters in a harrowing room-by-room gauntlet. Even when they’re drawn together at the coffee table, it’s only because of the promise of cookies—no one ends up doing any actual studying during his first tutoring session.

Nino even manages to get Fuutarou out of the house by drugging his water, but Itsuki accompanies him on a taxi ride home. That’s when Fuutarou’s secret weapon imouto Raiha comes into play, using her cuteness to get Itsuki to join them for dinner. That’s when Itsuki learns that Fuutarou’s family is depending on the five-fold tutoring fee he stands to gain to pay off debts.

In light of the fact she’d be hurting more than him if she refused, Itsuki agrees to let him continue his tutoring sessions, with the caveat that she won’t accept “tutelage” from him, but will seek to improve her scores without his help. That’s good enough for Fuutarou, but he has yet to realize the gravity of the task before him: all five of the quintuplets are failing, which is why all five transferred to his less prestigious school.

The Quintessential Quintuplets (lets call it QQ) aired back in Winter 2019, but I neither watched nor reviewed, and it seems I missed out. I figured “5/5” would be the appropriate time to correct that error, but unfortunately I’m a couple days off. No matter: QQ is a ton of fun right off the bat. The premise couldn’t be simpler or more obvious and familiar, but the execution is solid.

Production values are high, the character designs and personalities are distinct, diverse, and well-balanced, and the all-star voice cast is pitch-perfect. Everyone comes off as likable despite their flaws, and the comedy works more often than not.

Sometimes you just need a good high school harem rom-com (this episode is intriguingly book-ended by marriage scenes), and there’s no harm in looking back to the recent past for a shining example, which is what we seem to have here.

Isekai Quartet 2 – 04 – Time Cheaters

In a light, brisk episode that flies by even quicker than most IQ half-episodes, Roswaal informs the class that The Test is nigh, so they’d best study. Among the most nervous is Ainz, who in real life didn’t even finish middle school, and Aqua, who challenged Ainz to a bet to see who gets the higher score. Meanwhile Subaru feels nostalgic studying with Rem and Emilia, even though he can’t recall ever doing it.

The day of the test arrives, and a panicking Ainz stops time in order to copy someone else’s answers. However, Aqua is immune to the magic due to her goddess status, and both Subaru and Tanya also aren’t affected. When he sees Aqua blatantly cheating Ainz reconsiders doing the same and resumes time…before Aqua can get back to her desk. An unfrozen Roswaal makes her wait outside, while Ainz takes the chance that the answers on the test form the shape of its creator, Pandora’s Actor.

Unfortunately, the characters from Shield Hero don’t even appear this week after only the briefest glimpse of them last week. Hopefully they get something meaningful to do at some point…

BokuBen 2 – 01 – Chests and Tests

First thing to understand is that this is a continuation of a Spring 2019 series, so before diving into this I’d advise watching the first season, my mostly-glowing reviews for which you can find here.

For those who are all caught up, BokuBen 2 offers more of the same vibrant brand of ecchi-related misunderstandings between various girls and their well-meaning male tutor and friend which inherently get in the way of the tutoring, hence the English title We Never Learn!

This week, Yuiga Nariyuki spends the most one-on-one time with Ogata Rizu, in which the first such misunderstanding is a mix-up between test scores and cup sizes. Since the worst test score is an E and Rizu is well beyond E in cup size, the wording of Nariyuki’s earnest attempts to encourage her (“There’s room for growth!” “I know how you feel!” “Let’s both grasp what we want!”) only serve to reinforce Kominami Asumi’s claim that Nariyuki is a “secret horndog.”

Nonetheless, Rizu believes she’s the one being immature about this, and that there’s nothing wrong with a boy she likes admiring her chest. Nariyuki is a half-beat too late in their conversation to clear things up, as Rizu finally offers to let him touch them “for only a second” just as her beastly father arrives at their booth.

The next segment involves Nariyuki in a group study session at a cram camp called “the Getting Inn” (not suggestive at all!) with his three tutees plus Asumi, when Fumino accidentally slips up and calls him by his given name, like she did when they had to get a hotel room together and pretended to be siblings.

Rather than reprimand Fumino (or think a little longer about why she called him Nariyuki), Takemoto Uruka wants in, and won’t respond to Nariyuki until he calls her Uruka. She also insists Rizu start calling her Uruka. As with Fumino going back to Yuiga before slipping up here, who knows if the given name-calling will continue, but the fact it’s not an unthinkable concept shows growth among the friends.

Things get a lot more intimate between Nariyuki when his three primary tutees when they head into the hot spring bath early, just before the men and women signs are changed. When Nariyuki heads in, he believes, correctly, that he’s in the men’s bath when he encounters a nude Fumino washing her hair.

Once the three realize they’re in the wrong, they prepare to skink away, but are blocked by the arrival of three more boys who most certainly are horndogs. Thankfully, they’re sufficiently distracted by their own attempts to widen the bamboo in order see into the women’s bath that the girls are able to escape into the steam, while Asumi on the other side jabs her fingers into one of the peeping tom’s eyes.

Once everyone is dressed, the girls thank Nariyuki for being a gentleman about things, but he must torpedo the goodwill by presenting Fumino with the bra she left in the changing area. The implication is that he knew it was hers due to the cup size, expressed through a very unexpected but appreciated parody of the touching ending shot of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

BokuBen – 11 – The Fast and the Kirisu

This week it’s Kirisu-sensei’s turn to get dressed up every which way, as she breaks off from boring work drinks (with guys who think she lives like a princess) and happens upon Nariyuki hanging outside a seedy maid cafe. Turns out Asumi is one of her former students, and the two start yanking at Nariyuki’s arms, as you do.

In the midst of the horseplay, another cafe employee is injured, and Kirisu decides to make things right by dressing up as a maid and filling in. Unfortunately, despite her confident bluster, she’s no better at cleaning in a commercial setting than a residential one, and one tiny sip of alcohol sends her into a “praise spiral” as Nariyuki carries her home on his back.

If that wasn’t enough humiliation, Kirisu runs out of clean clothes to wear when she has to stop by school to “drop off some documents”—everything, of course, but her old school uniform, which still fits like a dream but immediately attracts police attention.

Again, Nariyuki is there to bail her out, and even thought she repays him by giving him a lift in a Honda Jazz she drives like they’re getting away from a robbery, he still helps her navigate the school without being seen.

Seeing Kirisu in her uniform makes Nariyuki wonder how she was in high school, and she mentions she never got to stop anywhere after school due to her dedication to skating. He rectifies this by buying her an ice cream, but the two end up having to hide behind a bench and then pretend to kiss when Fumino and Rizu show up at the same stand. That night, just when Kirisu thinks she’s in the clear, she turns around and finds Asumi there, ready to mock her school uniform “cosplay.”

Kirisu is…fine as focus characters go, but after an Asumi-centric previous episode I had hoped for a return to the main trio of Fumino, Rizu, and/or Uruka. The comedy also leaned a bit too heavily on Kirisu’s arrested development, penchant for running into students outside of school, and talent for humiliation that verged on piling on.

Ao-chan Can’t Study! – 11 – Takumi Can’t Get the Picture!

Takumi suggests he and Ao study together some time, but Ao is against it because she knows what such things can lead to. However, Takumi says “pretty please,” so she grudgingly agrees, and orders her first pair of silky panties so that if and when Takumi makes his move, she’ll be prepared.

Then she goes to Takumi’s and they’re both alone together, and there’s never an if or when. One, two hours pass, and Takumi only seems interested in…studying. Even when they make a wager for the loser to do whatever the winner wants, he just wants her to make her lunch again.

This steams Ao’s beans, because she went out of her way to wear sexy panties for the occasion, and Takumi is so pure and dense he can’t take the hint that it’s okay for him to make a move. It either never occurs to Ao that SHE should make the first move instead, or she, like Takumi, is too inexperienced and timid and afraid of coming on to strong.

So Takumi fails to resemble anything like the crazed sex beast of her imagination, and ends up a lot more like…well, like her. Only he likely wore comfortable boxers with the knowledge she’d never see them, while she ends up with a stomachache due to being unaccustomed to low-riding underwear. If she wants…that from Takumi, simply waiting isn’t going to cut it. She’s going to have to say or do something, and deal however he ends up responding.

BokuBen – 10 – A New Challenger Appears!

As thanks for his tutoring services, Nariyuki is able to attend classes at a prep school on the school’s dime. He incorrectly assumes his petite purple-haired desk-mate Kominami Asumi is a middle schooler, drawing her immediate ire. However, his nineteen-year-old pixie senpai actually has a kind heart, and shares her notes with Nariyuki when the teacher erases the board too fast.

After class, Nariyuki gets lost, but is picked up by a couple of heavies and tossed into a maid cafe…the very maid cafe where Kominami not only works, but is the star of the place. She makes her adorable entrance as “Pixie Maid Ashumi” before she notices, then excoriates the heavies (who look up to her as their big sis and boss) for bringing in another broke kid.

Howeva, the coincidence turns out to be a boon to “Ashumi.” While she may not admit it, when Nariyuki knocks her science mock exams over while getting up to leave, he learns that despite trying to get into med school, her science grades stink. Turns out she’s just like his other tutees: her passion doesn’t match her talent (in this case, for business and being a people person, as she cleans up doing the maid thing).

You can see where this is going: Nariyuki starts coming to the cafe to help tutor her, and she makes fast progress with her studying. Then she runs after Nariyuki with his bus pass he left behind to find that he’s collided with her father, who owns a clinic. Backed into a corner, Asumi blames her “boyfriend” Nariyuki’s “tastes” for her get-up.

Nariyuki salvages the encounter by telling Asumi’s father he’s confident she has what it takes do what she’s set out to do; that even if it seems like she can’t do it now doesn’t mean she’ll never do it. Asumi wants to take over the family clinic from her father some day; it’s not obligation, it’s what she wants!

Later, Asumi teases Nariyuki by suggesting they kiss as long as they’re pretending to be dating, but then pats his head and praises her kohai for helping her out. Another day they encounter one another at a family restaurant, where Nariyuki is with Uruka, Fumino and Rizu, all of whom are amazed by her beauty and petite-ness. She’s even smaller than Rizu!

To Nariyuki and Asumi’s surprise, the next time they’re at the prep school, the three girls have taken up supplemental classes, figuring they can’t rely exclusively on Nariyuki all the time. However, like Nariyuki they learn that prep school is no cakewalk. While Asumi finds these three girls annoying busybodies, she still helps them out by offering pointers.

Then it suddenly rains after class, and she invites them to her clinic to dry off. Super nice! Nariyuki even gets to see the bra he recommended for Uruka. She might not know it was him under that mascot costume, but the bra was bought with him in mind…not that she thought through how she’d get him to see it. Well, job done!

When Fumino hears that Asumi’s dad thinks Nariyuki is his daughter’s boyfriend, she pulls Nariyuki aside and thrusts her hand into his midsection, hard. On one level, she’s angry that Nariyuki might be off with some other girl while Uruka and Rizu continue to pine for him.

On another, and as Asumi herself brings up (after explaining the situation and clearing Nariyuki of wrongdoing), Fumino herself clearly has some kind of feelings she needs to work through.

While studying at the maid cafe, Asumi asks him who he’s crushing on. Nariyuki serves up the usual “no time for that before exams”, but Asumi follows that up with “what about after exams?” It’s a good question, and one I hold out hope will get answered, even if it probably won’t.

Asumi then serves him some omelette rice and provides some service by sitting quite close to him and adorning it with a ketchup message. Clearly already an expert in torturing the naive young scamp, and just as clearly enjoying it, she wonders what he’d do if she said their “lie” wasn’t a lie, before pointing down to the ketchup, which reads “YOU DAMN WOMANIZER.” Nice.

Kominami Asumi is certainly a latecomer to BokuBen—there are only three episodes remaining after this one—but she’s a welcome one, offering some notable and refreshing differences over the other “suitors” while effectively and efficiently positioning herself as a worthy one herself, including being the only one of them who at least jokes outwardly about being a couple. I don’t know how much of the remaining time we have will be spent on Asumi, but I liked what I saw.