Cardcaptor Sakura – 56 – Kero-chan v Suppie: Dawn of Plushtice

In a tale of two teams, Kero-chan is excited about Sakura’s upcoming bazaar, because it means a good deal of tasty sweets will be on hand, while Spinel Sun is far less enthusiastic, as Eriol hints that “something” happens when he eats sweets. Spinel is as calm and subdued as Kero-chan (not to mention Nakuru) is brash and excitable. His voice is very soothing, without a hint of a dialect.

The day of the bazaar arrives, and Sakura is cute as always in her handmade outfit (a Tomoyo original, natch). Tomoyo is nearby with her camera, Eriol beats Syaoran to complimenting Sakura, Yamazaki goes off on a string of rambling lies, Rika has a nice moment with Terada-sensei, and Touya tries to fight off Nakuru as Yukito eats a lot. Pretty standard CCS stuff, really.

What this episode offers that is unique and thus more compelling is the first meeting of Spinel and Kero-chan, though due to Spinel’s ability to completely mask his magic, Kero-chan doesn’t quite know what to make of the guy, but in any case doesn’t consider “Suppie” a threat…especially when he learns his name is “Suppie”.

We then learn why Spinel avoids sweets: they make him drunk, alternating between happy, goofy, crying, and vacuuming up all of the sweets in the school with no regard for whether he or Kero-chan are seen by witnesses. Spinel’s seiyu makes the necessary changes in their delivery for a convincing transformation.

Kero-chan decides to go to Sakura and implores her to convert Sleep and cast it in order to prevent exposure. Sakura is confused, but does so, and Kero eventually finds Spinel, who is now started “vomiting” his red laser beam. Kero counters with his fire breath and Spinel flees, essentially framing Kero-chan for the sweet-stealing spree, which Sakura assumes was his fault.

It was a close call for Spinel, but he was saved by Kero’s cluelessness. It’s also somewhat frustrating that Sakura and Kero still have no idea they’re being targeted by Eriol, Spinel and Ruby, and this episode failed to move that needle.

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…

Hamefura – 05 – A Town Where She Lives

Catarina is on great terms with Maria—better even than any of the conquerable guys—and yet the heroine still feels…distant. Cat’s inner council determines the best way to keep the doom flags at bay is to spend even more time with Maria outside of the StuCo offices.

This leads to Cat encountering Maria once again being bullied, by characters who in the game are working under Catarina herself! Cat shifting from chief tormentor to chief defender of Maria has left these bullies leaderless, and they’re easily dealt with.

Little does Catarina know that she just stole another event from a conquerable guy; in this case her own brother Keith, who in the game was the one who saved Maria from Cat and the bullies. The council determines this is no big deal, since only bad things can happen to her if Maria falls for any of the guys.

As things stand, it’s not only Maria who likes Catarina best, but Mary and Sophia feel the same way. In her relentless quest to eliminate any and all death flags, Cat still seems reluctant to rest on her laurels, despite how safe and favorable a situation she’s created for herself.

Cat’s relationship with Maria shifts into overdrive when, after spending the day in the fields learning more about farming (something else Game Cat would never ever do) she pays an impromptu visit to Maria’s hometown and house with Keith in tow. It should be an encouraging sign to her that she can bring one of the main love interests along without worrying about him and Maria falling for each other.

While Catarina makes use of her farming skills to shape up Maria’s family’s little field, Maria starts to bake more sweets to fill her stomach. All the while, Maria’s mother is dumbfounded by the sudden and dramatic positive change in her daughter’s demeanor.

You see, when Maria’s light power awakened (she used it to heal a friend’s leg injury), her fellow commoners in her hometown started to spread rumors that she was the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman. Even if it wasn’t true, it tore through her family until her father left and she became a pariah at school.

Remembering how happy she and her mom and dad were when making sweets, she decides to learn how to bake for herself. But when she presents the product of her hard work, her classmates turn their backs in unison and leave her alone, refusing to even look at her.

With Catarina in her life, Maria seems to have left that pain in the past. Her mother is so surprised because Maria stopped baking after being rejected at school. Cat may have done a lot for Maria to get her to like her, but it was enough for Maria just to be seen, not as a bastard daughter or bad news, but as a normal, kind, and generous girl who deserves all the friends in the world.

Her mother realizes how cruel she was to get lost in her own troubles and stop looking at Maria. So she dusts off the old cookie cutters and bakes with her daughter, and starts to feel better herself. It’s a beautiful moment of catharsis when Cat and Keith depart and Maria and her mom exchange gazes. It’s like they’re looking at one another for the first time, recalling the warmth of better times, and realizing they can get that warmth back.

All thanks to Catarina, who has now gone way past preserving her own life and staving off potential exile. She’s making the lives of everyone around her better day by day. Now all she has to worry about is her sinister dirt-hating mother!

Hamefura – 04 – Breaking Flags and Taking Names

Now that Catarina is a teen attending magic academy, the game as it unfolded in Fortune Lover truly begins. Yet as the Inner Claes Council reports, she’s made progress changing some of the characters. Nevertheless, Gerald still meets the heroine Maria Campbell by chance, making Catarina nervous about the doom flags that will sprout should the wrong love triangle form.

Keith is no longer a affection-starved playboy, which means he’s turned into a “nice young man” (AKA goody-goody), so when he tells Catarina he picked up Maria’s handkerchief, he doesn’t use it to hit on the heroine. Still, Catarina is worried about inadvertently coming between Keith and Maria should he fall for her, and assures a very confused Keith that such a thing won’t occur.

With both Gerald and Keith encounter Maria before Catarina, and first steps on conquest routes may have been officially started, her inner council decides that she should continue developing her farming skills so in any scenario in which she’s exiled she’ll have a marketable skill (and won’t go hungry). But when she finally does meet Maria at the Student Council office, she proceeds to have a far more consequential first encounter than either of the boys.

It all comes down to Catarina’s sweet tooth, and the fact the otaku within makes no distinction between commoner or noble when it comes to tasty treats. She kindly asks Maria if she’ll bake something for her, but while Maria is on her way with said treats, she’s intercepted by three bullies. Catarina leaps out of the bushes to rescue Maria, then eats her delicious sweets even though they’d fallen on the ground.

While Catarina was just trying to be nice, her actions resulted in her stealing an event from Gerald. In the game, Catarina was one of the bullies, and she was run off by Gerald. Without that opportunity for Gerald and Maria to get closer, Catarina successfully broke a doom flag. Nice!

Also, most importantly, while there was no possible Catarina X Maria route, that looks to have already gotten started. Gerald catches a glimpse of that route when he sees the two hand-in-hand. It’s definitely a route I’d like to see explored, even if it ends up creating new doom flags!

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 10 – Rumomoshpringa

This week, Momo asks a favor of Chio and Manana: to “assist” her in buying and consuming sweets. They’re a little confused at first, until they invite her to partake in their years-long tradition of sucking the nectar from flowers on their route. Turns out Momo is really into sweets, and gets really enthusiastic and hyper after eating them.

Chio and Manana decide not only to help Momo, but end up joining in the sugary bliss. I’ll point out that I’ve watched shows in which Momo’s behavior wouldn’t be so unusual (Shokugeki no Souma and Dagashi Kashi come to mind), so it’s refreshing to have someone yelling about how “Hokkaido is in her mouth” be regarded as the weirdo they are.

After all that sugar intake, Chio spots the wee ass-finger-poker and decides to follow her. The girl, named Chiharu, leads her right to Andou, who turns out to be her big brother. Chiharu is pissed that a girl from Samejima Academy made him give up the biker gang life, but she’s mistaken about a great many details.

Do Andou and Chio have…something between each other? Sure, but it’s not as if she’s a succubus who has Chiharu’s once-cool, now-lame brother in her thrall. And yet, when he tries to “scare” her into punching him the way she did before by copping a feel, both of them are embarrassed more than anything else.

Enter Manana, whom Chio informed the poking girl was in her sights, and has come for some revenge. She punches Andou out cold simply because he’s in the way of that revenge, but an unconscious Andou still manages to reflexively rise up and protect his little sister, who now pretty much believes Chio when she says she hasn’t made Andou her sex slave.

The final segment is presented without dialogue in a nice change of pace, and chronicles Andou’s attempts to befriend a cat. It highlights both Andou’s basic decency and humanity, as well as his continued interest in Chio.

3-gatsu no Lion – 43 – Some are Gone, but Some Remain

Gramps’ doctor is impressed with how far he’s been able to lower his blood pressure, especially when he used to say things like “I don’t need doctors!” and “I’ll die when like!” which are, let’s face it, Big Time Granddad things to say. But when his wife and daughter left him with “three little ones” he resolved to stay alive until they were all married off, which he realizes is a big ask considering Momo is still in preschool.

One of those little ones, Hinata, is making fine progress with studying, and Rei is putting on a tutoring clinice…until he tells Hina that Takahashi is going to school all the way in Shikoku, something she didn’t know until Rei told her; something Rei immediately feels very shitty for doing.

The news totally throws her off her studying game and into a spiral of despair over yet another person suddenly vanishing from her life. She stays out in the cold and catches one, and since Akari has to work late it falls to Rei to take care of her and assure her she’s studied enough, won’t forget what she knows, and will be okay in time for the exams.

That night, Hina can’t hold back the flood of tears from thinking about everyone who is or will soon be gone from her life. But with Rei there by her side, even to walk her to exams, she realizes that things aren’t all bad; for as many people who have left her life, just as many remain, like Rei, to help her up when she slips. She takes comfort in that.

She passes the entrance exams, which means in April she’ll officially be Rei’s kohai at his high school. While her aunt was initially very skeptical of a second-year high schooler spending so much time alone with her young and vulnerable niece, her fears are met with chillingly identical reactions from Akari and Gramps…Kiriyama/”the Kid” isn’t going to do anything weird. I mean, he’s Kiriyama/”the Kid”! 

Indeed, even Hinata tells him he’s “like a mother,” to which he should say “what’s wrong with mothers? Mothers are great!”

While very pure and oblivious to some if not most of what is said about him and Hinata, he knows one thing for sure: when he heard she wanted to come to his high school, he did everything he could to help her achieve that goal, and didn’t worry about whether that was right or wrong.

When she showed up at home with mismatched slippers, and stayed utterly true to her heart even in the face of gross injustice, she lit a light within him he didn’t have before. She made a part of him.

Then Rei gets a surprise of his own: his father shows up, having avoided demotion, which means they’ll both be in B-2 next period, and he wants to pick up where they left off…which is just fine with Rei.

3-gatsu no Lion – 42 – High School Should Be Fun

It’s still summer vacation for Hina, and she was so inspired by the town festival that ideas for new sweets are exploding in her head…yet those dreams of expanding her confectionary repertoire are being deferred by summer homework and school days.

Hina proudly shows her adorably delicious designs to a duly impressed Rei. When he decided to get into shogi, he believed it was his only path; the only thing he could do at the time. It worked out, but that wasn’t guaranteed.

Hina, looking toward the future like few eighth graders do, has a lot more options, so Rei agrees with others who have told her she really should go to high school…even if she ultimately does decide to work at her gramps’ sweets shop she loves so much.

After a not-so-fun year in middle school, Hina is understandably weary of going to high school, particularly having to make all new friends. But Rei has an idea. He takes Hina (who also brings Momo) to his school, Hashi High, where Noguchi, Mr. Hayashida, and the Science Club have set up a bitchin’ flume noodle stream out of surplus bamboo.

On first sight, both Hina and Momo mistake the mustachioed Noguchi for a teacher (natch), while Hayashida spots Hina and understands instantly why Rei wanted to help this girl so much. When Akari, an older version of her, arrives, disheveled and sweaty, Hayashida is nearly blown away by smitten-ness.

The noodle bonanza commences, with the lads adjusting the stream angle and stream to help an overmatched Momo, and showing Hina the proper way to catch the noodles. They then play a little game where the color of the accent noodle they catch determines whether they get tempura; Hayashida runs into a streak of bad luck here.

In any case, everyone has a ton of fun, which leads Hina and Akari to wonder out loud if maybe she should try to get into Rei’s high school. It’s an idea I don’t think has ever come up before, but I like it. I like it a lot!

3GL is equally adept at portraying the sizzling summer heat as the warm, cozy interior of the Kawamoto house in winter, as a serious time leap takes place in the second half. It’s new years, and Hina and Rei are under the electric kotatsu.

Ever since Rei heard Hina’s intention to apply to his school, he’s (a notion by which he’s clearly elated), he’s been gung-ho about helping Hina study for the entrance exams, putting the same passion and diligence into it than he does while preparing for a shogi tournament.

When Akari was Hina’s age studying late for exams, their mother once asked if she wanted tempura or fried tofu in her udon. Akari couldn’t decide, so her mom put both in, and thus Kawamoto Pampering Udon was born.

By making the same udon for Hina and Rei, Akari is both passing on a tradition and remembering her mother’s love while paying it forward. Plus that shit looks guuuuud.

Hina takes a look back to when she was still weary of trying for Hashi High, mostly because it’s a fancy and thus expensive private school and she didn’t want to be a burden on Gramps or his sweet shop’s steady but modest revenue.

Gramps, not one who believes kids shouldn’t think about finances, is chuffed that Hina thought of him while considering her choice. But he believes they’ll be fine money-wise, and in any case, his granddaughter’s happiness is paramount. If she’ll have fun at “the kid’s” high school after suffering in middle school, her choice has his full blessing.

Back in the present, Hina asks Rei for help on a math problem, but he’s so absorbed in his shogi study he doesn’t notice. Far from being annoyed, Hina actually feeds off the infectiously incredible concentration. In another sign these two were destined for each other, they are completely at ease without saying any words. Hina pulls back her window curtain, and after noting how hushed it seemed, discovers the first snowfall of the year.

A masterpiece need not always contain shocking revelations, twists, or developments, although Hina trying to join Rei in high school is a pretty big deal. This was a quiet, peaceful episode filled with fun, love, and ambitious yet very achievable dreams to aspire to.

The show created little pockets of happiness one wants to wrap around oneself like a blanket, all while organically building the very close and loving bond between Rei and Hina, both souls beyond their years. Few shows do this kind of stuff better.

3-gatsu no Lion – 41

I much prefer my 3GL with the Kawamoto sisters, and when they’re not around, regardless of whether Rei is with them, it’s just not the same. So I’m happy to report this week has no shortage of Akari, Hinata, Momo, and their Gramps.

In preparation for a town festival where Moon Crescent will have a stall, Gramps has left the production of rice flour dumplings to the sisters, who make them even better than Gramps was expecting (though he never lets on that they surpassed his expectations).

As for the proper dipping syrup to accompany the dumplings, Gramps likes the plum the best, which Hinata got from Chiho on her first visit to the farm where she’s slowly, gradually building back her ability to interact with kids her own age. Even the sight of Hinata can cause the profoundly tramatized Chiho to simply freeze up.

Hinata and Akari do not leave Chiho with smiles on their faces, but they take solace in knowing Chiho is fighting with everything she’s got to get better.

“Everything You’ve Got” could well be the Kawamoto family slogan. Even down a mother, a father, and a grandmother, Gramps and the sisters (with drudgery help from a game Rei) don’t have ass a single thing, and pull off a marvelous festival. People buy everything they make so quickly Gramps has to pull up his sleeves and make more dumplings.

In the middle of it, Hina and Rei share a nice little moment in the doorway of the store, simply taking in the cozy warmth of the festival, and all the happy customers and couples and families around them. Takahashi pays a visit, taller than ever, but let’s not kid ourselves about who’s #1 in Hina’s heart!

Despite it being summer vacation, Hinata’s class has a summer term test, while Mr. Kokubu prepares to step down as their interim teacher, passing the duties to a young and extremely nervous new homeroom teacher, not just terrified by having to deal with Takagi, but her fire-breathing mother as well.

Kokubu’s time with Takagi Megumi is just about at an end as well. Takagi, ever the wannabe nihilist, scoffs upon hearing Kokubu was never able to give her a definitive answer for why everyone has to put in effort and do their best.

However, what Kokubu has been able to determine is that Takagi is paralyzed by anxiety over not knowing what to do with herself. She never makes an effort because she’s scared of learning her “capacity” and being disappointed by it.

His departing lesson to her is that it’s okay to be disappointed; it is simply part of life. One cannot go anywhere in life until they find their capacity that will give them an understanding of what they should do, which will make more clear what she wants to do, thus reducing if not eliminating her terrible anxiety. In short, Takagi needs to do her best so she can learn what her best is.

One other lesson Kokubu could have given Takagi is that it might not be a bad idea to hang around Hinata more. Not necessarily to seek forgiveness, but to witness someone her own age who always does her best,

Hinata knows what she can do and wants to do, and is always looking to expand what those two things are. The festival just ended, and she’s already planning next year’s menu…but until after studying for her test.

Then again, perhaps that’s not such a good idea. Takagi in her current state could well be blinded to death by getting too close to Hinata!

Takunomi. – 07

Aside from one extra-brief cameo from Nao, it’s a Michiru-and-Makoto episode this week, as Michiru tries to act like a cool Tokyoite by doing work in a Starbucks…only to scurry away when a barista approaches her!

Fortunately, the barista is Makoto, who just wanted to say Hi. But Michiru notices something off with Makoto, blames herself for bothering her at work, and makes up for it by preparing a little “home cafe” roleplay with donuts and coffee rum to unwind.

Turns out it’s “typical work stuff” bothering Makoto—not Michiru’s presence at the cafe—but that won’t stop her from having a coffee rum latte and trying out a few of the easy-drinking mixers one can make with Kahlua, which was actually the first alcohol I bought as a teenager! (The second was a King Cobra 40. My tastes were diverse!)

Once Michiru has unwittingly “greased the hinges”, Makoto opens up about what’s got her off her game: while on a job interview, someone said she had a fake smile. She asks how Michiru smiles, leading both into a very self-conscious mirror-viewing session, with no positive results in real smile development. Meanwhile, Nao’s drunken cat smile is a bit too real.

The next day, having unwound from coffee rum and sweets, Michiru greets her next customer with a perfectly warm, easy, genuine smile—and that customer happens to be Michiru again! Michiru tells her not to let a one-time comment in another environment get her discouraged about her face, and whenever she does, well, that’s when you break out the Kahlua!

3-gatsu no Lion – 32

Perhaps I denounced Junko for playing dirty against Nikaidou; turns out he respects the hell out of the round little guy, and was fully prepared to lose to him…until Nikaidou collapsed.

Between his clueless drinking buddies with their boorish questioning, his two downgrades, and losing his prized racing pigeon Sliver, we see that Junko’s loss to Rei is only the latest of many setbacks in his personal and professional life.

However, things look up after he sends hydrangeas to Nikaidou. Silver also returns, and with it, Junko’s fighting spirit, which he aims to use in the 12th Lion King Tournament.

While ostensibly a detour from the season’s main narrative of Hina’s predicament, it’s still an enjoyable and at times moving character study.

Back to Rei, who celebrates his Newcomer victory by treating the Kawamotos to anything they’d like at a sweet shop.

Akari and Hina end up scaring both Rei and Grandpa by managing to put away prestigious amounts of delicious dessert in complex combinations of texture, temperature, and flavor.

By the time they leave the restaurant, the girls can barely move, and Momo, in classic kid form, waits until they left the nearest restroom to declare she had to pee.

With Akari unable to exert herself too much, Rei carries Momo, while Hina stays by his side. Akari notices that ever since Rei visited Hina in Kyoto, she’s been smiling a lot more.

We flash back to their encounter by the river, where Rei is so kind and accommodating, Hina feels as if she’s back home. Rei and Hina are lovingly framed an rendered in this scene, looking for all the world like a romantic pair, particularly when Hina tries on Rei’s glasses.

But whatever the vibes they emit, Hina has been thoroughly cheered up, to the relief of both Akari and Gramps.

Dagashi Kashi – 03

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On a hot day, as kids we’d usually go for a soda (or pop, depending on what state we were in), snowballs, soft serve, or frozen yogurt. It never occurred to me how great it can be to eat hot things when it’s hot out. Hotaru demonstrates this, I think, by firing up a stove to the shop and cooking up some tonkatsu Butamen; kind of a a mini ramen cup.

Tou, who’s back after a week off, put together what was going down and invited himself, knowing that in return for the intense heat, he and Kokonotsu would get to watch a cute girl eating noodles, not to mention getting so hot her dress gets see through. Naturally, Hotaru is totally oblivious to all of that.

Her only concerns are candy, snacks, and acquiring You for her father’s company. And that’s the other side of it: she doesn’t realize the power she has over Kokonotsu, courtesy of her looks and close casual manner with him. As far as she knows, the battle will be won with her convincing arguments for the primacy of candy.

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So rather than seduce him, which just isn’t in her character, Hotaru continues cockamamie plans, one of which involves You pretending to be a lifeguard to make extra bucks on the side, since the shop doesnt’ do. She’s unaware of her ability to seduce, so instead she tries to guilt trip.

She and You (also back after one week off) are awfully proud of their plan and are regarding one another in a better light all the time, but snagging him all comes down to her ability to convince Koko to take over the shop. Alas, an attempt to show the wonder of candy through strategic placement of kurukurubu jelly sticks in the pool backfires when Koko, Tou, and Saya see the “no food or drink” sign.

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The last segment is somewhat strange, in that Hotaru’s interaction with Kokonotsu is minimal. Like Hotaru with You in the previous segment, this looks like an effort to explore each two-person combination in the lean five-person cast. Hotaru curbs her suspicion that Tou is a pathetic confectionary tourist and shows him the proper way to deliver a Botan Rice Candy (with its edible wrapper) to one’s mouth: the same way one delivers a fastball to the plate.

Finally, after Koko shoos her off while the shop’s A/C is fixed (which seemed kinda mean; though Hotaru was somewhat in the way), Hotaru interacts one-on-one with Saya a little more. Just as Hotaru thought Tou might be testing her (though he wasn’t; he’s just an idiot), Saya sees Hotaru’s desire for “girl talk” that starts with a quesiton about Koko has her thinking Hotaru is testing her.

She is, but it has nothing to do with Saya’s crush, only the fact she’s never seen her with candy, something Hotaru cannot stand by and allow. She gives her some “Neon Seven”, a very cryptic kind of candy that Saya initially picks at wrong (both of their close-up expressions are hilariously rendered) but eventually learns to eat properly.

Saya is amazed and entertained by Hotaru’s wealth of knowledge (as anyone would be), and the two end up talking so long Hotaru never goes back to Koko’s…which kinda serves him right for shooing her off!

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Dagashi Kashi – 02

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Dagashi Kashi continues to be Shidare Hotaru’s (and Taketatsu Ayana’s) world; everyone else is just living in it. Kokonotsu lives in a goldmine of candy classics, Hotaru has more passion for them in one of her brightly-painted nails than Koko’s whole body. There’s a tremendous enthusiasm gap here, but the hope is Hotaru will eventually wear Koko down into accepting succession of his father’s store (though who knows if it’ll happen).

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Until then, Koko can hardly complain about being bored with Hotaru around; there’s literally never a dull moment with her around, getting into a big lecture about the proper way to eat Kinako sticks, then breaking out tablets of non-alc Namaiki Beer she somehow proceeds to get piss drunk on (and Hotaru is possibly even more entertaining in this state).

In both cases, Hotaru, despite being so well put together fashion-wise, doesn’t seem to know some of her mannerisms and phrasing can be inadvertantly titillating for Koko. There’s this subtext of Hotaru growing up so fast into the candy and snacks savant she is now (she could probably run her dad’s company today), she never had either the time or the inclination for romance. And yet, she’s by any measure extremely happy and fulfilled.

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On the other hand, Koko, and Saya for that matter, are still very much kids at heart. Koko doesn’t want to give up on his manga dream and gets embarrased when Hotaru does or says certain things, while Saya likes Koko, but Koko is of course oblivious. I do appreciate that while there is a clear love triangle here, Saya’s the only one remotely aware of it, and in any case the show doesn’t push too far on the romance or triangle angle.

Instead, what would have been another quiet, hot, boring small town day for Koko and Saya becomes…something else entirely, thanks to Hotaru happening to pass by showing off her Ramune Whistling skils, then going on to recite the entire history of the whistle, telling it like some kind of school drama, and casting both Koko and his father in unsubtle attempt to try to convince Koko that following his father is the best path for him.

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To his credit, Koko stands his ground. Convincing him isn’t going to be easy, if it’s even possible, but if anyone can do it, Hotaru can. She even gets Saya’s blessing, since if Koko doesn’t take over the store, it might mean he’s leaving town; leaving her behind.

So now both Hotaru and Saya share a desire to keep Hotaru right there, in the Shikada Candy Shop that is his destiny. The episode closes out with some menko, a card-flipping game Saya turns out to be really good at despite having never played, to both Hotaru and Koko’s dismay.

The trio just seems to be having a ton of fun, and I’m having a ton of fun watching them. I didn’t really miss You or Saya’s bro Tou, though that’s not to say I’d mind if they show up next week. In fact, I like that the show can keep characters in its back pocket and still run the table.

The only character who must be in every episode is Hotaru; she’s the linchpin of this whole nutty operation.

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Dagashi Kashi – 01 (First Impressions)

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Simply put, Dagashi Kashi is a taut, crafty, stylish laugh-riot. It is life from lifelessness. I had an absolute gas watching it, and it never failed to surprise me with a goofy facial expression here or a momentary trip to a different genre there. And the premise should prove to be a veritable goldmine of comedic and romantic material.

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The cast is lean, but makes every shot count: Shikada Kokonotsu (“Coconuts” to his friends-I’ll call him Koko) is the son of an animated small-town candy shop owner, Shikada You (a hilarious Fujiwara Kenji), who really wants him to succeed him as “ninth generation head”, but he’s currently in his mangaka stage.

Enter Shidare Hotaru of the famous Shidare candy company, who is looking for You but encounters Koko instead and immediately sets to work testing his confectionery instincts with umaibo.

The classic gothic lolita garb-donning young woman proves extremely eccentric, and well, very animated. Not just a pretty face with concentric irises, she’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys, and country boy Koko is super ultra intrigued. Taketatsu Ayana really sinks her teeth into the role with relish.

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In fact, once You returns, Koko gets swept up in the combined madness of his dad and Hotaru, who formally relays her father’s desire for You to come work for his company. You flatly refuses, but when Hotaru hears of You’s desire for Koko to inherit shop, she makes a counter-proposal on the spot: if she can convince Koko to take over the shop, his dad will take the job.

She may be mad as a hatter, but she knows what she’s doing when it comes to business and snacks. I myself know the joy of extravagantly shoving too many hot fries down my gullet. One of life’s little thrills!

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You wastes no time mistaking Hotaru for Koko’s girlfriend, which Koko vehemently denies (while blushing, natch) but Hotaru doesn’t dismiss the idea. She doesn’t say anything about it, actually. That segues nicely to Koko’s present love interest in the town, Endou Saya, whose brother Tou is Koko’s best mate (Saya is ably voiced by Numakura Manami)

Koko is oblivious to Saya’s feelings, but never fails to compliment her coffee as the only coffee he ever drinks. When a possible rival in love is brought up, she shows off her fiery temper, but even dropping dozens of sugar cubes in Koko’s coffee doesn’t faze him.

When Saya comes face-to-face with her competition, it’s quite by accident—as in Hotaru had an accident on her bike while too closely inspecting the message on her popsicle stick, and fell into a muddy rice paddock.

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Saya gets Hotaru in the shower, but when Tou walks in on Hotaru and sees her nakked, Hotaru doesn’t even flinch, introducing herself and apologizing for putting Tou out. Later while enjoying some free coffee (which Hotaru agrees is wonderful), she breaks out some “Young Donuts” out of seemingly nowhere. No matter what, Hotaru seems to be equipped with the right snacks for the right job.

There, Hotaru regails Saya about her mission and the “contract”she’s ended up in, which should keep her in town for the foreseeable future. Of course, she’s so flowery and dramatic and vague, it’s as if she’s telling some kind of fantasy epic. Which is kinda is, to her. Her victory is dependent on convincing “the one who would succeed the legend.” This should be a sweet ride.

8_ses