Higehiro – 08 – Such Sticky Sweet Sorrow

In hindsight, it was already over for Sayu the moment Issa showed up at her workplace. A man of her brother’s means and drive surely wouldn’t rest until his little sister had been found. Even though Sayu knows this this, and understands this is probably It for her months-long excursion, she’s understandably shaken by the close call, and freezes up. Rather than take immediate action to soften the inevitable blow, Sayu retreats to her happy place: buying snacks for her and Yoshida, who will be at the office late.

But more to the point, Sayu once again places someone or something—in this case Yoshida’s work and her obligation to handle the chores—before herself, even though well within her rights to insist upon being the priority. Her brother finding her also affects Yoshida quite a bit, and in more ways than one—psychologically, legally, etc.—yet Sayu keeps quiet. She doesn’t bother Yoshida.

Thankfully, just as her brother and his employee are about to spot her, Sayu rings into Yuzuha, who, after hearing that Sayu doesnt want to be found, helps hide her. We learn she does this as much to help Sayu out as she does to take the temperature of Sayu and offer some unsolicited but very much needed advice; even some tough love.

In yet another example of how Sayu’s youth has not gone the way most kids her age have, Yuzuha learns Sayu can’t sing with her, because she doesn’t know any songs, because she never had any friends with whom to go to karaoke. Yuzuha surely sympathizes with Sayu, but she’s also more concerned with giving her a thorough reality check than sparing her feelings.

As such, she sits down next to Sayu and asks her, if her pursuers are already here, and she has so little time left, what is she doing shopping? I don’t think Yuzuha is right when she says Sayu “doesn’t get it”, but she is right that Sayu isn’t taking this as seriously as she should. Not just that people are looking for her, but that she and Yoshida seem to have become co-dependent.

One can argue as a practical matter whether Yuzuha the character has really spent enough time with the two of them to make that determination so confidently, but that doesn’t really matter to me, because as much or as little as Yuzuha is assuming, she’s absolutely correct that Yoshida and Sayu have become far too comfortable with their arrangement.

I gave Yuzuha grief in an earlier episode for essentially reading both Yoshida and Airi the riot act for the way they’re going about their lives, but while her little stalking incident is still a mark against her, I for one am glad Yuzuha is here as the voice of reason. Sure, she has a massive conflict of interest in being literally in love with Yoshida (which is its own can of worms), but Yuzuha is no kid.

At this point I trust her more than anyone else to see the forest for the trees. That’s why she can love Yoshida, see the way he looks at Sayu when he arrives, and stay behind in the karaoke room to cry her eyes out, while still being very much in the right about how tremendously unprepared either Yoshida or Sayu are for what isn’t coming down the pike—but has already freaking arrived!

The remainder of the episode sets to work painstakingly validating Yuzuha’s concerns. I can’t blame her taking a rain check considering her feelings for Yoshida, but it really would have been better if Yuzuha had joined them for dinner. At least then, she might’ve been able to steer Sayu towards telling Yoshida that she’s close to being found.

Instead, Sayu says nothing to Yoshida about her brother, choosing to ignore her fate. The two see a poster for the Summer Festival, and in one of the more awkward transitions of the show, the episode cuts from one night to the next night, with Sayu resplendent in her pink yukata,gold obi, and geta. 

Then they go on a date that would be adorable, except for the fact that it’s an indulgence neither of them can really afford at the moment. I can’t really blame Yoshida—he’s in the dark about Sayu’s brother and wants Sayu to have another “normal high school girl” experience.

At the same time, I can’t really blame Sayu for not suddenly turning to Yoshida and saying the jig is up. After all, she hasn’t been to a summer festival since she was a little girl, wasn’t allowed to eat cotton candy even once, and has never been as close to fireworks as she and Yoshida end up being.

The temptation to forget about her imminent doom for just one night proves too strong to resist, but like a yukata rental, the quickly-melting cotton candy, and the fleeting light from the fire fireworks, the trappings of normalcy in which she seeks refuge are all too temporary.

Their interactions throughout are charged with romantic tension. When he sheepishly compliments her yukata, she asks, just under her breath so he can’t quite hear, if it’s prettier than Gotou-san’s. She feeds him some of her cotton candy. When a kid bumps into her, of course Yoshida takes her hand to keep her from falling, and she decides they should keep holding hands throughout so they won’t get lost.

Yoshida knows that were it not for Sayu, he’d have never gone to the festival. Images of his past life without her flash by in his head; it’s a place he’s not ready to return to. When he exits those thoughts, Sayu is no longer holding his hand, and he calls out for her. She’s right behind him, and teases him for thinking she’d disappeared, but we cut to his five-o’clock shadow as he asks, also just under his breath, if she’s really going home.

Even after the fireworks are over, Sayu keeps looking up at the sky. She recalls how she gave all the other guys an alias, but when she met him, her real name just came out. The moment arrives that has arrived in so many romantic anime where there’s either a confession and/or kiss or a failed/thwarted attempt at either.

Instead of either, Yoshida wisely gives Sayu a nice, platonic head pat. Sayu looks disappointed, but quickly smiles. She knows, even if she wasn’t a teenager, Yoshida is sure would have taken her in…and just as sure they wouldn’t have had sex.

Of course, while she knows this, and Yuzuha and Airi and Asami know this, the person to which that very crucial distinction matters most does not know this, at least not yet. That means when Yoshida comes to the door in his pajamas and Sayu is standing behind her in hers, Issa has absolutely no way of knowing Yoshida wasn’t sleeping with his sister.

Even so, Ogiwara Issa’s entire character as we know him thus far is that he’s polite but determined to find her, and now he has. His brief smirk seems more out of relief to have succeeded than a reaction to just how screwed Yoshida is. But that smirk soon straightens into a more serious face as he announcesnot proposes—what’s going to happen. He’s taking Sayu home.

Yoshida may have something to say about that, and Issa may be open to hearing him out, but because this is there first interaction, depending on the level of assumptions Issa is willing to level against him, I can’t imagine anything Yoshida says will move him. I guess we’ll find out eventually, but with next week’s episode entitled “Past”, we may have to wait longer than we should.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro – 07 – Senpai Unleashed

Naoto knows there’s a summer festival going on, and he knows he wants to go with Nagatoro, but instead of simply texting or calling her, he plays video games and waits for something to happen. When that doesn’t work, he goes to the festival alone, hoping to run into her by chance.

For his passivity he is punished with Gamo-chan and Yosshi for company, though if you ask me, he lucked out, as the two of them are cuties in their own right, even if they insist on putting a literal leash on him. They send a pic of the captured Paisen to Nagatoro, knowing she won’t be able to resist rushing over to reclaim her “pet.”

Of course, “pet” is just a code word for “boy she likes”, and Gamo is well aware of this, making Nagatoro fight to get Paisen back by playing various festival games. While shooting corks at prizes, Nagatoro wonders out loud if Senpai was waiting for her to invite him, then says very directly that if there’s somewhere he wants to go with someone (her), he could always try asking them (again, her).

After Gamo doesn’t accept Nagatoro’s win “by quality” for winning the biggest prize, Nagatoro bribes Yosshi and the girls part ways for the evening. Really, Gamo and Yosshi are giving their friend some time alone with her pe…the boy she likes. She swipes some of his takoyaki; she pops some cotton candy in his mouth…it feels like a date.

Naoto thinks dating requires people to “go through the proper procedures”, but the only procedures are if the two people like each other and want to hang out alone together for the purposes of learning more about each other. That’s really it; it’s not complicated!

He’s saved by the bang of a firework from having to overtly take Nagatoro’s hand when she holds it out, but when she almost gets swept away by the crush of people, he takes her forcefully by the wrist and leads her to a viewing spot he remembers from elementary school, the last time he saw fireworks live. Nagatoro is surprised….and flustered.

When she tries to mess with him by accusing him of taking her somewhere dark to do “something”, Naoto, who knows she has a tendency to be shy at times, nails her down, asking what, pray tell, she might be insinuating, exactly. It’s the first time he counters her virgin-shaming by pointing out that she’s not exactly Gene Simmons either!

When she says “grabbing hold of her and kissing her”, it basically confirms her bark is stronger than her bite when it comes to sexual stuff. It’s a most welcome challenge from Naoto in what’s steadily becoming a more balanced relationship with each passing episode.

And just in case anyone thinks Naoto is mistaken about Nagatoro’s shyness regarding hanky-panky, when she moves in to force a kiss on him, a giant red heart-shaped firework reveals other couples fully making out, the two are equally scandalized and skitter away.

The final sequence involves Naoto passing by when he notices Nagatoro having lunch with her whole “family”, including the rarely-seen, also tanned Sakura. He observes them from behind a tree like David Attenborough watching jaguars, but then two eyeless guys roll in and try to get Nagatoro to go out. One even  puts his arm around her, and she’s clearly not into it.

Naoto tries to move in for a closer look, but steps on a twig, a sound all the others notice. While he initially wavers like a wind dancer at a car dealership when asked what he’s doing there, he steels himself, looks straight at Nagatoro, and says “Let’s Go!” When the guys try to get him to repeat himself, Nagatoro returns the favor for getting her out of an uncomfortable situation, and replies “Let’s go, Senpai.”

Gamo is also all about getting out of there, and Yosshi—who we see is also clearly not interested in those guys in the least—follow Nagatoro’s lead and head out. Sakura has no choice but to abandon the guys and follow her girlfriends.

Naoto may feel like he doesn’t “fit in” at all with these loud, brazen, slightly boorish girls. But it’s clear they don’t feel the same way. They’d much rather hang out with him—whether to mess with him or not—than those boring,  faceless goons. Even Sakura notes his weird “aura”, while Nagatoro goes along with all of the ragging on the boy the four of them explicitly chose over two others who weren’t as fun.

But all Naoto needs to really pay attention to is Nagatoro’s expression when their eyes meet. She couldn’t be happier he rescued her, and that he’s by her side right here and now. This was another instance of things just working out, but hopefully in the near future he works up the nerve to actually ask her to go somewhere. If she’s free, here’s no way in hell she’ll ever say no!

Episode 7 “Senpai” Count: 22 (+8 “Paisens”)
Total: 257

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 12 (Fin) – I Want You to Live

In the first half, Nasa lets his tendency to get really involved in something get the best of him, and he works on a computer project all day and through the night. When he’s done, he has a fever, and Tsukasa is committed to being the “cute newlywed wife” who sees to his every need until he’s better.

That includes making him food and administering medicine, but also more intimate things like having him strip (as much as he dares to) so she can wipe down his sweat. By the end of the day, he’s feeling much better…better enough to get frisky in bed.

But Tsukasa again warns him to know when to “apply the brakes”—she’ knows he’s still not fully recovered enough for strenuous activity. As for Tsukasa, she drops one last hint about her mysterious origins by declaring she “can’t get sick or hurt”.

The remainder of the episode is actually the reason Nasa worked so hard he got sick: he wanted to be able to go to the summer festival with Tsukasa. He makes what he believes is not an unreasonable request to watch Tsukasa change into the yukata Kaname lent her, and doesn’t forget his camera—mostly to take pictures of his cute wife, not fireworks.

Nasa shows he’s not good at everything when he instantly fails at goldfish scooping, and Tsukasa confesses that the way they made takoyaki at their party is not her favorite way, and she’s super stoked to get the traditional kind at a food stall. Finally the two make and offering and pray for a long and happy marriage, for their health, and for better luck scooping fish in the future.

Then they join the others to watch the fireworks, Nasa looks forward to going to next year’s festival with his wife, and they return home together, husband and wife. Nothing too fancy! Certainly no other further revelations about Tsukasa’s possibly immortal status are revealed.

In this regard, TONIKAWA ends just the way it should have, with the lovely status quo of a happy Nasa and Tsukasa continuing to enjoy their lives with one another and their little circle of friends. It’s simple and mundane, but in the very best way, and I wouldn’t mind more heartwarming comfort food of this kind at some point in the future.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Warlords of Sigrdrifa – 10 – Don’t Be a Memory Just Yet

Odin makes it official via hacked video feed at an international summit: he’s provided humanity with weapons to use, a motive to fight, and now enemies to fight. Now it’s up to them to resist their destruction. As far as he’s concerned, Ragnarök isn’t over—it’s still nigh.

Miko notes that Sono has seemingly become stronger following the loss of Yayoi, and also proposes they carry on with Tateyama’s summer festival in spite of the ongoing crisis. After all, if not now, when? Claudia accompanies Satomi on various PR gigs to shore up support for the next battle.

As for Azuzu, she’s extra-burdened by the weight on her shoulders, believing she’s the only one around her “smart” enough to comprehend that if they lose the next battle, it’s curtains for humanity. When Miko wakes her up and presents a yukata for the festival, Azu is furious: how can you think of festivals now?

She lashes out at Miko and runs off because she’s scared, and Miko knows it, so she runs around trying to locate her. Sono hides Azu, but maks it known that pretty much everyone agrees with Miko that this isn’t just an appropriate time to celebrate and make memories, but the only time. After the next battle, memories may be all remains of them.

After a brief chat with Claudia, who is as happy and at home in Takeyama as ever, Miko realizes where Azu has gone: the same vantage point where she used to gaze out at the sea when she first arrived. Azu is scared, and apologizes for being weak; Miko tells her she’s scared too, and tells her not to confuse being a crybaby with being weak.

The two lean closer, acknowledging that they may die very soon, but Miko assures her that if one of them dies, both of them will, leading to the most haunting lines of the series: “I’ll wake you in heaven for breakfast.” Now that they’ve made up, they join Claudy and Sono for the festival.

It’s a big success, as they and the townsfolk have a ton of fun doing standard festival stuff. Miko has Azu cram into her Hero Wing to apply the finishing touch: a fireworks display during the casting of water lanterns, meant to console the living as much as guide the dead.

Claudia takes it all in, as it confirms her feeling of home in this place where she one felt so out of place, and adds her song to Miko and Azu’s display, tearing up in the process. When Satomi and the head mechanic see her cry, that settles it: they, and everyone beneath them will do everything they can to protect those tears. The calm has now come and gone, and now it’s time for the decisive storm.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 18 – Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

After a trippy dream sequence in which Sakura is surrounded by glowing orbs, Sakura is abruptly awakened by Kero-chan, who is curious what she was dreaming about, since a Cardcaptor’s dreams may be premonitions. Unfortunately, she was so startled by Kero-chan waking her up, she can’t remember much!

Kero is also curious as to whether she’s completed her summer homework, as vacation drawing down. Sakura dodges the question by focusing on her dinner duties, but makes sure to stop by Yukito’s on the way home from the grocery store in case he’s home.

As fortune would have it, he is, and he serves her some tea and sweets, totally making her day in the process. While she’s on cloud nine crushing on him, it’s clear Yukito’s many gestures of kindness come from his essential nature; he treats her the way he does because he’s a nice guy…not because he “likes” her romantically. Still, a girl can dream…

With his grandparents traveling, Sakura is worried Yukito is lonely, so when he offers to walk her home (he has something to return to Touya anyway), the Kinomoto siblings invite him to join them for a delicious repast of okonomiyaki. When Touya hears Sakura is attening the summer shrine festival later that evening, he volunteers to tag along, and Touya follows suit.

When they arrive, Sakura resplendent in her sakura-patterend kimono made by her dad (his skill with needle and thread explains a lot of Sakura’s sharp everyday outfits), Tomoyo derives the most fun not by participating in the various festival games, but by recording Sakura having fun. It’s something Sakura’s never been super-comfortable with, but she respects Tomoyo’s wishes.

Also attending the festival are Chiharu and Yamazaki, who we’d already learned were childhood friends, but appear more like boyfriend and girlfriend here. Even when the former is choking the latter out for his elaborate lies about the history of things, it’s clear to Sakura and Tomoyo that the two make a good pair.

Syaoran is also there acing the shooting game, and when he spots Yukito he immediately hands him all of his edible prizes. When both Yukito and Sakura agree that a stuffed rabbit is cute, Touya and Syaoran engage in a heated competition at the ring toss. This allows Sakura to slip away to spend time alone with Yukito.

As they end up in a secluded spot and fireflies start amassing, Sakura deems it a good time to at least attempt to confess her feelings to Yukito. She’s interrupted by Touya and Syaoran—both of them having won rabbits for the two others—and I’m kinda glad she was, as she would have almost certainly had her heart broken by Yukito’s rejection, no matter how much he’d have tried to soften the blow.

Instead, Sakura get to exist in that lovely heady limbo where any answer might’ve been possible, but due to circumstances she couldn’t come out and say anything this time. Furthermore, she comes to recognize the fireflies as the same phenomenon from her dream, meaning Kero-chan was right about her seeing the future.

In a card-sealing that requires no confrontation or fighting whatsoever, Sakura gains the Glow card. Instead of being rejected by Yukito, she had a wonderful day and night. Now, on to that summer homework!

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 12 (Fin) – The Real Game Begins

The entirety of Takagi 2‘s finale is devoted to the summer festival, as it should be. We start with Nishikata waiting nervously for Takagi, his hands already sweating with anticipation. She arrives positively resplendent in a yukata, nearly bowling him over with her beauty.

As they walk to the festival together, little kids and old people alike see them for what they are: a couple on a date. Nishikata thinks he can win a game in which no adults say they’re on a date, but he has to rely on semantics, and ultimately loses at the candy apple stand.

As the other members of the cast enjoy the festival, Nishikata tries to distract from the fact he’s on a date with Takagi by engaging in one competition after the other, from goldfish scooping to ring toss. He loses at all of them, but Takagi gives him an out: if he does “date stuff” with her, he’ll automatically win.

For once, Nishikata doesn’t want to win, or rather the little timid voice inside him doesn’t want him to fully open himself to the experience. He won’t feed Takagi, but he does give her the gift of a cute hairpin, eschewing the childish toys also available to choose.

On two notable occasions, the large crowds separate Takagi and Nishikata. The first time, he’s able to locate her quickly, but the second almost spells disaster, as they can’t find each other when the fireworks begin. Thankfully, Nishikata’s mate Kimura, with the assist of the episode, directing Nishikata to Takagi’s location atop the shrine steps.

Takagi has to endure the bulk of fireworks all alone, and her face has never been more morose…but when she spots Nishikata running up the steps her face brightens, and meets him halfway down the steps. Sadly, the fireworks end just as they reunite.

Far more importantly to Takagi, Nishikata finally takes her hand into his, unbidden, calmly explaining how it would suck if they got separated, not to mention the steps can be perilous.

DAWWWWWWWWWW

Takagi’s reaction above tells you all you need to know about how much this means to her. Just one episode after he finally asked her out, he mustered the courage to take her hand, and even if it was the practical move, it shows HUGE growth on his part to actually, you know, make it.

They descend the steps hand-in-hand and later we find them playing with sparklers on the beach; unassailably a date thing. Takagi tells him that throughout all the “losses” he’s endured, he’s never really lost, because, well, he has her. Her attention, her affection, her eyes on him.

No matter how you slice it, Nishikata is a winner. And in what I dearly hope will be a third season of this beautiful, uplifting show, perhaps he’ll keep gaining confidence, shaking off his childish hang-ups, and making the right moves. There’s a lot of game left to be played. But if this is the ending to this particular story, I’m glad it ended on a happy note.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 11 – A Big Catch

In a desperate attempt for a win, any win, Nishikata manages to find out from Takagi’s friend that she’ll be walking down a certain road at a certain time, and arranges for a game to guess the steps to a certain spot.

Thinking more than one step ahead for once, he correctly predicts she’ll call for a further target, but he’s such an open book she changes it again, demonstrating that thinking just two steps ahead won’t cut it if you want to beat Takagi!

Still Takagi had fun, and is flattered that Nishikata would go so far to win a game, and asks what he wants her to get him as a souvenir on her family vacation. Later, Takagi’s friend can tell from her face “something nice happened.”

When Takagi is back, she presents Nishikata with another great gift: a 100% Unrequited Love-themed curry kit. He also went on vacation, and surprises her with a gift of cookies. Little does she know they’re sour cookies. When she suggests they go to the shrine to enjoy their gifts together, it’s the perfect chance to see her distressed, puckered face…

…But on the way there, Takagi expresses her happiness so genuinely, Nishikata has no choice but to warn her ahead of time. Turns out the cookies are actually pretty good. Takagi also uses their shrine visit to tell him she had her family vacation shortened so she could go to the upcoming summer festival.

Nishikata isn’t planning to go with anyone, and neither is Takagi, so she tells him in no uncertain terms that if someone asked her to go, she would—someone she teases all the time, for instance. Knowing him all to well, Takagi provides him with everything he needs…all he has to do is, well, ask her out.

The subtle animation really shines in this scene, conveying Takagi’s nervousness as she adjusts her legs and stretches her trembling hands, matching Takahashi Rie’s superb voice work.

Asking Takagi out is one of the hardest things Nishikata has ever had to do, because it pretty much throws out the window the fiction that, as he’s so fond of saying, “it isn’t like that” between them. When the two run into each other on the street and he offers to carry her groceries in his bike basket, the atmosphere gets more and more awkward as he utterly fails to speak up and say the words that need to be said.

I really can’t overstate how much tension is built up as they walk up to her house and say goodbye and he starts to walk away, without asking her out. Her usual cheerful smile vanishes, replaced by a look of resignation…she tried her best. But then she hears his bike returning, and the shy sonofabitch finally, finally asks her if she wants to go to the summer festival with him.

The answer, of course, is yes, and in her elation she tosses more canned drinks into his arms before he heads off to fish with his mates. Nishikata doesn’t get to see her adorable quivering look of relief and joy as he pedals off. Now this is how you build anticipation for the twelfth and final episode!

While fishing, even when he gets a bite on his line he doesn’t notice, as he’s in a kind of trance state. Not surprising, as he’d already snagged the biggest catch of his life.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 08 – A Better Dream

This week Takagi and Nishikata get “stuck” in the storage shed after gym class, as Nishikata pretends he can’t open the door in order to scare Takagi. Honestly it’s a pretty sizable “own goal” on his part, as Takagi doesn’t mind being alone in a shed with Nishikata one bit. She even realizes pretty quickly that the door’s not really locked, but if he’s going to make conditions so perfect for teasing, who is she to resist?

While in the dim shed Nishikata scrapes a knee, so Takagi takes him to the conveniently empty nurse’s office to administer antiseptic. Again, the two are all alone, and Takagi makes sure to point this out, sitting on the bed with Nishikata (the second bed of the episode!) and putting her hand just an inch from his, daring him to hold it and claim victory. Unfortunately, Nishikata…just can’t do it.

When the two compare dreams of what they’d do with a million (then ten million) yen, we can see the recurring theme of Nishikata being an unapologetic, helpless…kid. He wants to buy all the video games and comics; she wants to go on vacation with “someone she loves”—someone Nishikata can’t yet realize or accept to be…him.

Presumably, at some point, Nishikata will grow up a little more and take Takagi’s numerous, increasingly obvious hints. Or perhaps the time will come when Takagi will stop “teasing” and simply tell him upfront how she feels, leaving no room for doubt and not following it up with a “just joking.”

Mind you, I’m not saying that’s Takagi’s responsibility to move this thing forward. For all I know, she’s fine with things the way they are—which is why she’s not pressing—or she’s waiting to see how things play out. In any case, her odds of a desirable outcome are surely better than winning a 10 million-yen lotto ticket.

BokuBen – 13 (Fin) – The Lights in the Sky are Stars

This is it—The episode we’ve all been waiting for: when Nariyuki finally chooses which of the girls he’s going to go out with! Pfft, sure. If only it were that simple! Every girl has good qualities—though as discussed ad nauseum last week, some people have a particular preference, depending on their own type—but however Nariyuki feels about them, he’s either unaware of their feelings for him (in the case of Fumino and Rizu) or has been misled or messed with so much he doesn’t know what to think (Uruka, Kirisu, Asumi).

While she’s serving as a kind of “substitute Nariyuki” at an all-girls pajama study session at Rizu’s, Sekijo Sawako impresses upon them how lucky they are to have such a dedicated tutor, though she’s not sure if it’s because he’s a pushover or simply gets “caught up in stuff so easily”—the answer is somewhere in the middle. Alas, that’s the last we see of Sawako, one of BokuBen’s more intriguing but underutilized supporting players.

Later, Nariyuki intends to help his mom with his littlest brother and sister at the summer festival, but when his fam sees his two cute friends in yukata, they quickly ditch him, and Fumino soon follows, leaving Nariyuki with Uruka, which came as a bit of a surprise considering they arrived at a pretty good stopping point last week.

Aside from her showing him her tongue (stained pink from shaved ice) and offering some to him (for an indirect kiss), there’s no further romantic awkwardness between them, as they chip in to help an overworked Rizu and her dad at their udon stand.

Kirisu ends up attending the festival in disguise to keep an eye on students, but when Nariyuki makes her, she runs away, trips, and injures her knee. He has to give her a second piggyback ride (only this time she’s not sauced) to the first aid tent, which of course is being tended by Asumi and her dad.

Asumi leaves Kirisu’s skinned knee to Nariyuki, but he ends up helping out the rest of the night, showing that Sawako is indeed correct about him being a bit of a pushover and easily caught up in things. But hey, if he enjoys helping everyone out, so what if he’s not the one instigating these scenarios?

Fumino, who split off to let Nariyuki and Uruka be alone, ends up losing track of time gazing at the stars, and on her way to the last train, she has to corral a little lost girl and get her back to her mom. Nariyuki also loses track of time at the first aid tent, and ends up finding the little lost girl’s twin sister.

With the twins back with their mom, Fumino and Nariyuki end up missing that last train, and encounter one other at the station. With no taxis (or indeed any cars) around and only an inn to turn to, the do-gooders have to consider an action that, if taken out of context of their situation, could be seen as very bad.

That action, of course, is spending the night together at a ryokan, which only has one room left, and that room has only one futon, and because it’s a chilly night they have to share it. These two have clearly never heard of sleeping head-to-foot to avoid awkwardness, but that’s rarely a comfortable way to sleep anyway.

For the first time, Nariyuki and Fumino find themselves sleeping in a bed with a member of the opposite sex, and it’s tough. Thankfully, it’s a gorgeous, clear, starry night, so they manage to find a topic that sets them both at ease; the very subject Fumino intends to pursue: astronomy.

Fumino tells Nariyuki about a book she first read when her mother was on her death bed, about an old astronaut continuing to chase his dream and conquering his weakness—something she, Rizu, Uruka, and Asumi are all doing. Nariyuki points out how cool he thinks they are for doing so, and expresses envy for not having any particular personal goal of his own.

Fumino tells him she doesn’t consider herself particularly special for having a dream, and it’s clear she doesn’t think he should discount his desire to help make his family more comfortable and prosperous. But if he ever comes up with another dream, she promises to help him, as his “big sis” (they checked in to the room as siblings).

Fumino ends up falling asleep while grasping Nariyuki’s hand, and he doesn’t have the heart to wake her up. Turns out she’s dreaming of that day she read that book with her mom, and when she wakes up, her hand and his are still intertwined. While initially surprised and bashful, she doesn’t see any need to break their embrace, and so curls up a little closer to him.

The night after on the train, the two are mortified by the choice they made last night, but as they part ways, Fumino, back to calling him by his family name Yuiga, smiles and tells him simply that she’ll see him later. And indeed we shall, as a second season of BokuBen is coming this Fall, where I’m sure we’ll be presented with more adventures both wackily comedic and poignantly warm between Nariyuki and the girls he tutors.

I can’t see why I wouldn’t be around to keep watching them. After all, it seems when it comes to this kind of show…I never learn.

Senryuu Shoujo – 11 – Peonies in the Sky, I Can Go Twice as High

It’s summer festival time, and both Nanako and Amane are resplendent in their yukata; the proverbial garden peonies while standing, tree peonies while sitting, and lilies while walking. Eiji looks pretty good too!

But Amane soon detects a problem: she’s definitely a third wheel, even if Eiji’s the kid of dude who spends entire days catching bugs like a five-year-old (he makes Takumi in Ao-chan look like Gene Simmons).

Even so, sometimes he’ll surprise you, like when he tenderly slips a glow ring he won on Nanako’s dainty finger. It’s like he’s already proposing! When Amane and Eiji go to the bathroom, Nanako stays behind and gets snatched up by three classmates who saved a spot for the fireworks.

The thing is, Nanako’s one wish on this night was to see the firworks alone with Eiji. Eiji knows this, so when the two are separated and fireworks time draws near, he starts searching for her.

While doing so, he leaves Amane and the bulky “Famistation” she won behind, but fortunately she runs into Eiji’s family and thus isn’t alone. Eiji manages to find Nanako thanks to the glow ring, and takes her hand just as she’s tearing up from having to watch the fireworks without him.

It’s a very well-orchestrated, powerful moment when the two lovebirds finally reunite at just the right time. I’ve maybe witnessed dozens of this kind of scene before, but it gets me every time when executed well, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer pair of kids here.

Koi wa Ameagari no You ni – 09

I had high hopes for some enjoyable festival times with a newly reunited Akira and Haruka, but the reveal of the episode’s title, “Rain of Sorrow” (yikes!), After the Rain had other ideas. While Akira made a nice gesture by inviting Haruka out, there’s no avoiding the fact the two have drifted apart considerably.

When Haruka watches Akira interact with Kondou (who is there with Yuuto), Haruka is thrown for a loop when Akira makes it clear she likes someone so “old.” It’s a reasonable thing for a high schooler to say, but Akira doesn’t take kindly to it, and cuts off the discussion.

That, in turn, leads Haruka to lose her temper, since Akira has made it almost impossible to talk to her about anything anymore. With a few words that probably weren’t meant to cut as deeply as they do, Akira has Haruka running home crying. Those words? “We can’t go back to how we used to be.”

That’s damned harsh, and I’m a little disappointed in Akira for going there so quickly, but then again, perhaps a degree of maturity and pragmatism have rubbed off on her, both from Kondou and the reality of not being able to run. Bottom line, harsh or not, Akira is right, and she’s not quite sure how to integrate Haruka back into her life.

Somewhat conveniently, Kondou is going through the same thing, only at a more advanced stage: he’s meeting an old friend and classmate Kujou Chihiro at their old watering hole, where they’re the only two guys who aren’t college students.

Kujou is the author of the book Kondou checked out of the library and got mad at the Amazon reviewer about. And it’s lovely to see these old friends gel so nicely right out of the gate (beer and delicious food help grease the proverbial wheels).

It’s also apparent Kujou holds Kondou’s opinion and skills as a writer in high regard; perhaps even beyond his own, which is why he doesn’t believe Kondou when he says he doesn’t write anymore. He does, but rather than a dream he wishes to achieve, it’s “just a little something.”

But there’s a reason Kondou and Kujou haven’t seen each other in ten years. Kondou was meant to join Kujou and other classmates on a trip to India, but he ditched them to marry Yuuto’s mother, while Kujou’s experience kicked off his successful writing career Kondou wanted but apparently put aside for love and family.

Kondou and Kujou never had a grand public yelling match in full yukata regalia like our girls, but through their individual choices and the passage of time, grew apart to the point they couldn’t go back to how they used to be. There may be other times when they see each other to drink and talk. When together, they’re not adults, but classmates. But there will never be a time like back they enjoyed in their youth. Nostalgia, indeed!

The new term starts for Akira, and while her other track friends are friendly, since she hasn’t made up with Haruka, things are still awkward between them, and Akira isn’t sure how or even if she can mend fences, because she’s just as behind in what Haruka is thinking and feeling as vice versa.

Kondou (who made sure to tell Kujou his depiction of high school girls was inaccurate, no doubt based in part on his friendship with Akira), can sense Akira is down about something, and unlike with Haruka, Akira can relatively easily tell him what that something is.

Their talk is interrupted by work, but at close Kondou has Akira join him outside once more, where he presents her with a gorgeous supermoon (and what a great closeup of Akira’s eyes reacting to it’s glory) upon which to wish.

Kondou also lays down some adulty wisdom: even if she and her friend are growing apart, the irreplaceable moments they shared won’t disappear, so perhaps neither will the possibility they’ll grow closer again someday. Sometimes people need to grow apart to truly find themselves. But in Akira’s case, I think she should attempt to make up sooner rather than later; I don’t think they’re irreconcilable.

Koi wa Ameagari no You ni – 08

The opening moments of this week’s episode almost felt like a dreaded recap, but thankfully was just meant to establish the fact that Akira and Kondou are FRIENDS! Yes, JUST FRIENDS.

After that hug, the show—and Kondou!—wisely slows things way down while the episode spends a lot more time with the secondary characters that populate the couple’s life, to very pleasing effect. Also, Akira has a big pimple on her right cheek!

Take Yoshizawa: He’s spent many an episode trying to befriend Akira, to absolutely no avail. When Yoshizawa hears Kondou is friends with Akira he wants to be friends too, but Kondou sidesteps the issue by scolding his long bangs, threatening termination before they have a chance to be friends. It’s a joke, but Yoshizawa takes it seriously.

Enter Akira’s other co-worker of similar age, Nishida, who likes Yoshizawa and wants to get closer. She finds one in offering to cut his hair for him after work, which he’s a lot more enthusiastic about than she expected. After he leaves, she and Akira engage in “guy talk” for the first time, to the benefit of both.

Nishida stresses the importance of taking things step by step, which Akira needs to hear, while Akira tells Nishida that a friendship can turn romantic given enough chances for them to get to know one another and deem them more than friends. But there’s no rush!

What’s nice about this post-hug transition is that Kondou doesn’t avoid or ignore Akira; he’s not even bothered or uncomfortable by her presence. This is to be expected: we know, especially from last week, that Kondou is a decent sort, along with being, you know, a full-fledged adult.

As such, Akira uses his loud proclamation of their friendship to take a very logical step: she says “friends text each other”, and successfully acquires his contact info. A little step that brings them closer; now she can converse with him and learn from him even when he’s not around.

As she leaves work she’s practically floating on air, but so are Nishida and Yoshizawa, clearly hitting it off as he’s given a haircut. There’s just good vibes all ’round, and Akira finally gets to dance in giddy delight without being interrupted by a self-important Kase!

The second half expands the show’s horizons to a very satisfying scene between Haruka, arguably Akira’s best friend, and the recently-retired captain of the soccer team, Yamamoto. At first his presence displeases her, especially when he brings up Akira (imitating her almondlike eyes). But when she runs away, he follows, and he gets hurt.

Like Akira, Yamamoto had to leave the club because of a leg injury. Haruka wonders if Akira doesn’t love running anymore. Yamamoto asks if Akira said as much, and if she didn’t, it means that’s not the case. He considers Akira far more talented than him, so while both he and she might still want to play soccer or run, respectively, the high expectations the track star has from both within and without make her extra-cautious.

Yamamoto thinks Akira will be fine, especially when she has friends like Haruka who care about her. It’s just what Haruka needs to hear, and he manages to cheer her up considerably. Like Nishida and Yoshizawa hitting it off, Yamamoto and Haruka simply feel right together, showing that After the Rain isn’t just a one-couple pony!

From there we’re back in the office with Akira doing her homework. She’s unfortunate enough to be applying ointment to her pimple right as the manager comes in, but much more fortunate that the subject of her homework is in Modern Japanese, specifically Rashomon, which he’s recently read, and not for the first time.

I love how into it Kondou gets, calling the very question she’s stuck on a bad one, unless it doesn’t count towards her grade, because it’s a question with many answers depending on the individual. It’s almost fate that Akira has a pimple in the same place as the servant-thief of the story.

The end of the story—with the servant running into the RAIN towards a town to commit a robbery—finishes with the words “what happened to the lowly servant, no one knows,” which Akira believes is the perfect opportunity for a sequel, something Kondou had never considered.

Kondou also says that if he were the thief he’d likely stay under the rashomon, out of the RAIN, to avoid causing trouble, since he’s old and lives timidly. He also sees her pimple as a sign of youth, since he doesn’t get them anymore. It’s all him trying to maintain his stance that he’s not worth Akira’s affection, and that she’s better off with some guy who still gets pimples.

In any case, the discussion is cut short when, while flipping through her book, Kondou finds the same doodles that first got her in trouble with Kase, and the manager retreats. In the meantime, Nishida is on cloud nine and Yoshizawa gets the praise he so desperately wanted from the manager.

While watching a potential couple blossom before her, one of whom she can consider a new friend in Nishida, Akira looks at all the Summer Festival posters Kondou put up and thinks about her older friend Haruka. A couple taps on her phone, and the next we Akira she’s positively resplendent in her yukata, meeting up with an overjoyed Haruka and taking her hand.

Akira has apparently decided to take her time and trust the process vis-a-vis Kondou, having faith that in time a friendship can become more, but not to worry about it so much she can’t enjoy that friendship with him or anyone else. It’s very encouraging that she can contact and hang out with Haruka. Like Haruka, I was worried about her for a little bit there!

Tsuki ga Kirei – 09

Now that Kotarou and Akane have (mostly) overcome the largest impediment to their relationship with each other—their timidity—we see them hanging out alone together a lot more often and more comfortably, even discussing the ideal situation for the future: attending the same high school.

But no sooner do they swap first names and share a kiss does another obstacle come along; this one isn’t either of their faults, but an external factor.

Whenever a dad in an anime has to make an announcement, it’s probably because he’s being transferred and will be moving the whole family with him. That would be fine…if Akane didn’t have a boyfriend and had no interest in being uprooted. Alas, her dad’s gotta go where the bacon is.

It isn’t a sure thing, so Akane keeps it a secret as long as she can. She has her final junior high track meet approaching, after all, and has to keep her head in the game. Incidentally, that also means keeping Kotarou away when he asks if he can watch her run; it would be to embarrassing to her.

But Kotarou attends anyway, keeping a secret of his own, for the best of reasons: wanting to cheer his girlfriend on without distracting him. I honestly thought Akane would look up at the stands and catch a glimpse of Kotaoru there, but she doesn’t, and instead sets a personal best which she’s quick to snap with her camera and send to Kotarou, not knowing he saw her be awesome.

While Kotarou gets the slip on Akane, Chinatsu sees him, and because she’s still not quite over him, she doesn’t let Akane know she saw him. Hira asks Akane if she’ll still pursue track at high school, and she lets slip to Hira that she might be moving to Chiba.

Chinatsu, like Hira, is still stinging from her recent romantic defeat, but Hira seems to instill her with a glimmer of hope; after all, neither of them have actually taken a proper shot at getting the object of their affection to look their way; they’ve only dealt with the other member of the couple; with Kotarou being firm with Hira and Akane making her feelings for Kotarou plain to Chinatsu.

Whether Hira or Chinatsu give up may ultimately become moot if Akane moves, and when Kotarou confesses he watched Akane, Akane tells him about the possibility, and he’s suitably devastated. That being said, Kotarou has an awesome, progressive dad who wants his son to put happiness above fulfilling some kind of obligation; to “take it easy” and live his life doing what he loves.

With that in mind, if Kotarou decides to take a creative pivot towards light novels, he may find himself living in Tokyo before long, and Tokyo is not far at all from Ichikawa, where Akane and her family might move. If not, and the two end up being broken apart do to something as silly as a parent’s transfer, well, that’ll suck!

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