Fruits Basket – 16 – Her Kind of Place

This week’s cold open is perhaps the darkest scene since the show dove into Hatori’s dark past. It’s not just shot dark, it’s frikkin’ dark, full stop. A younger, short-haired, long white coat-donning Uotani Arisa comes home to a dad wreathed in TV light and surrounded by bottles who doesn’t notice she’s there. She goes to the room and sits in the dark, wondering, perhaps, why she’s even fucking alive; what the point of all this is.

The next we see Arisa, in the present, luxuriating in the pool during P.E., is as bright and upbeat as the cold open wasn’t. Despite their reputation for delinquency, both she and Saki love the pool and would never skip out on an opportunity to swim in it. But the sight of Tooru in the same school swimsuit she wore in middle school reminds Arisa of elderly people buying dinner at the konbini she works at: somehow just really sad and wrong.

So she does something about it, asking—nay, telling—the Souma boys that it’s about goddamn time they get up off their asses and show some gratitude for Tooru constantly cooking and cleaning for them, by coming along to help her and Saki buy Tooru a big girl swimsuit. After some brief Shigure lecherness, the kids hit the mall.

Yuki and Kyou are beyond embarrassed to even be in a store that sells skimpy bikinis, let alone to see one placed in front of Tooru, but Arisa demands they at least lend their opinion as to what color Tooru would look best in.

Naturally, the boys pick opposite colors: Yuki blue, Kyou orange. Saki corrects them: Tooru looks best in pink. Her mom was the Crimson Butterfly while her straightforward dad’s color was white; combine those, and you get pink. When Yuki remarks that Arisa and Saki seem to love Tooru very much, Arisa quickly confirms that assessment. After all, Tooru saved her.

That’s when three yankees spot Arisa and plan to jump her, but are totally distracted by the gorgeous Souma boys she’s with.

Tooru is very predictably reticent about accepting the swimsuit, claiming she doesn’t deserve such a gift or any gift for that matter, because she’s nuts—but Arisa and Saki insist, so a swimsuit it is. Yuki and Kyou will just have to wait until next time they’re at a pool or beach with Tooru to see what it looks like.

Yuki remarks about how much Arisa and Saki love Tooru (and vice versa), and asks if the three go back to grade school. Arisa says no, only since middle school, when she was still active in a women’s gang she joined in fifth grade. She beat the shit out of people and had the shit beat out of her, and absolutely idolized the Crimson Butterfly, AKA Honda Kyouko.

When her gangmates tell her the Butterfly’s daughter attends her middles school, Arisa keeps her eyes open for “Crimson Butterfly II,” a carrot-topped delinquent in the mold of her mom. Instead, she’s bumped into by Kyouko’s actual daughter: klutz, space cadet, and deeply kind and decent girl, Honda Tooru. Arisa can’t believe it.

When she finally gets to meet the total badass bike empress she placed on such a high pedestal, she was bound to be disappointed, but could never in a million years have thought she’d be a carefree doting parent. When Kyouko and Tooru invite her to dinner, Arisa suddenly feels very uncomfortable and out of place.

Arisa gets up to leave, and when they insist she stay, she lets Kyouko have it: she’s disappointed and embarrassed to see what has become of the Crimson Butterfly. Kyouko’s response is perfect: she “just relaxed a bit”, is all. But it’s just too hard a pill to swallow.

In her rush to leave, she left her trademark black face mask, and Tooru chases after her to give it to her, calling her “Uo-chan.” But Arisa rejects the nickname and rejects Tooru’s open hand of friendship. She can’t look at Tooru without being reminded of how low the Crimson Butterfly fell. So she goes back to beating the shit out of people and getting the shit beat out of her, because what else is she going to do?

That brings us back to the cold open when she comes home, shuts herself in her room, and can’t get the image of Kyouko and her warm, bright, happy life with her “strange” daughter out of her head. Lame as it might seem to her, it may nevertheless be something Arisa wants, but long ago thought she could never have.

After last week’s disappointing Ayame-stuffed lakeside excursion, Fruits Basket roars back into relevance with a much-anticipated look into the past of one of Tooru’s BFFs and one of the most lovable characters on the show, and it didn’t rush things, leaving its resolution for next week.

It reminded me of another excellent backstory episode of another blonde delinquent-turned respectable civilian (Onizuka Hime from SKET Dance) as well as a wonderful exploration of how much a person can change in a short time—and how much Tooru can change them just by being Tooru. More of this, please!

Oh, and as an added bonus, the three delinquents who have a beef with Arisa have a hilarious post-credits sequence where they’re enthusiastically practicing their threatening techniques under a bridge, only for their first “victim” to be none other than Souma Momiji, who inadvertently scares them off with a his terrifying German friendliness. Very good stuff.

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Ao-chan Can’t Study! – 07 – Beach Study

Ao truly cannot study now that she’s thinking about Takumi more, which means her grades drop precipitously, necessitating a trip to a studying retreat. Naturally, that retreat is at a beach so Ao will end up in a swimsuit—a very revealing, cherry-print swimsuit selected by Miyabi to accentuate Ao’s bust.

Takumi and his friend (who is interested in Miyabi) are also there, thanks to Ao’s dad blabbing about her whereabouts. Since Ao is three whole hours early for her study session, she decides a little time on the beach couldn’t hurt.

Ao looks so good in the bikini, Takumi has trouble summoning words. When they’re out on the water together, Ao assumes sex to be imminent, when in reality Takumi isn’t coming close to doing anything of the sort. Ao is almost disappointed when he doesn’t make any move at all, and in her anger, her top pops off, its strap sabotaged by Miyabi’s scissors.

The intent is clear: create a moment so embarrassing Ao retreats from her slow-burn courtship experiment, paving the way for Miyabi to swoop in and deflower Takumi. Only problem is, yup, Takumi still has no romantic feelings for Miyabi. So it’s a battle of attrition.

Fuuka – 05

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Fuuka continues to cement its role as my guilty pleasure of the Winter, thanks to its utterly shameless tendency to put protagonist Haruna Yuu in the most favorable situations imaginable, and still have him complain about it. That might sound unpleasant, but it’s actually pretty fun.

Adorable childhood friend coming by his house to reminisce? Sure, why not? Flipping through photo albums, where most of the pics are of Koyuki yelling at Yuu for various reasons, most of them related to him being a pushover? You got it! Yuu managing to blurt out that he liked her then…b-b-but not now! Seriously! (Now as well.)

Koyuki leaves suddenly, which Yuu takes as meaning he said the wrong thing, but little does he know she’s weeping tears of joy at the news her love wasn’t one-sided. I still don’t see her beating Fuuka. Fuuka’s the title.

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You know what this show didn’t need? Another girl! Especially not one who is impossibly tall and gorgeous, like she just jumped out of a magazine or something. But we get one nonetheless in the person of Iwami Sara, who seems very standoffish and aloof but I’m sure is really sweet deep down.

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She also happens to be the sister of Hisashi, one of the members of Hedgehogs (styled as HEDGEHOGS…because you have to YELL IT) who also graciouslly offers the use of one of his studios for the new light music club to practice…free of charge. Where’s this guy’s sense of entrepreneurialism?

In any case, the band…kinda sucks, particularly Yuu and Fuuka, but Sara is kicked off her third band and Fuuka decides to invite her into theirs, and the girl can not only play, but look very cool doing it.

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After practice they head over to Denny’s, I mean Danny’s, which—wait a second…

Kuzu no Honkai – 03

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Oh, that was Banny’s, not Danny’s. Nevermind…

…Back to Fuuka – 05

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Anyhow, the whole band is at some Denny’s ripoff, when all of a sudden everyone has somewhere to be…except Yuu and Sara. Did I mention Yuu’s face accidentally made contact with Sara’s boobs? Yeah…that happened, and then she smacked him in the face with a guitar, which should have caused a lot more damage to Yuu than it did. The magic of anime!

I’ve been ragging on this episode up to this point, but I have to say, I did not expect Sara to end up being one of Yuu’s best Twitter buddies, @0704-yamato.

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It happens so subtly as you expect Sara to be bored and checking her phone with just Yuu there struggling to find words to say. Turns out Sara’s the same way: finding it far easier to communicate through tweets than with her vocal cords, which so often uses the wrong words, or the right words the wrong way, resulting in misunderstandings (and getting kicked off bands).

When Yuu first started tweeting I was like “Oh great, this gimmick again,” but it paid off big league here, from the sundae, to Sara’s sudden change of character, for which she actually apologizes for by saying “sorry for the sudden change in character!”

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The next practice, held not at the full-up studio, but at Nachi’s ideal place (which he withheld so it didn’t look like he was as into this band thing as he really was), everyone has practiced a lot more, and they play a much smoother version of the show’s theme song, “Climber’s High!”

When Sara’s praise of Yuu’s progress is interrupted by Fuuka’s praise, and Yuu thanks her, Sara punishes him for allowing the interruption by jamming her guitar into his back. So this is how it’s gonna be, huh? Look out Koyuki: you’ve got more competition. (Note: next week’s episode is titled “Hinashi Koyuki”. Should be interesting.

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Fuuka – 04

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In what was for most of its running time the quietest and most emotionally engaging episode of Fuuka yet, Yuu gets caught in his web of omission, then the two have their first fight, as they both stumble over how to properly make up.

First of all, Fuuka has every right to be upset that Yuu was on a dock in the rain embracing her favorite idol. However close he is to her, Fuuka at least felt that at this point in their friendship he could tell her about Koyuki.

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Proving his inexperience in such matters, Yuu only makes things worse with his first attempt at an apology, inadvertently likening Fuuka to a “stranger”, which would be cruel if he weren’t so clueless.

For his inability to explain himself, Yuu gets the cold shoulder from Fuuka, making every moment of the day that follows a living hell where food tastes like ash and the beach at sunset is lonely as hell.

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Neither Yuu nor Fuuka want things to go on like this, so Mikasa takes Yuu aside and asks him to tell him straight up what’s going on. Yuu is able to articulate things, and also how upset he is he and Fuuka are fighting and how badly he wants to make up. Fortunately for him, Mikasa brought Fuuka along to eavesdrop, and she heard everything, and they finally exchange apologies.

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Fuuka also thanks Yuu for having her back when her track senpai shows up to harass her, then questions her designs on a band. Yuu has heard her sing and knows she’s good, and she proves it again when three of the five members of HEDGEHOGS (who were hiding in plain sight, including the restaurant owner) let her perform vocals while they play an impromptu trial concert that not only calls off the track senpai, but attracts a small audience from the beach.

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Fuuka even recruits the senpai as the drummer of the band, pegging Mikasa for the keys, herself for guitar and vocals, and Yuu for the bass (which he has no idea how to play…yet). All’s well that ends well, as Fuuka and Yuu, free of their row, are able to sit on the beach and admire the stars.

Fuuka even snuggles up beside him in his sweatshirt, but he panics, slips, and ends up with his hand up her shirt, ruining the lovely mood, both for Fuuka and me, the viewer, as I was enjoying the subtlety of their interactions to that point.

Naturally, when Yuu returns home, who is in his house waiting for him but the triangle’s third vertex Koyuki, no doubt unwilling to let some loud blue-haired girl snatch away her Yuu.

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Fuuka – 03

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Why don’t you just do what I dragged you here against your will to do?

So, we’re doing this, are we? Yuu seems to ask, as Fuuka founds a light music clu-excuse me, association, with him as a member, right before his eyes, with minimal resistance? Yes, yes they is doing this, because he let himself get swept away in Fuuka’s energy. So did Mikasa, but he’s a go-with-the-flow kinda guy. Yuu is complaining, but only to himself.

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LIVING THE DREAM

Things seem to get even worse for him as he tags along with Fuuka and Mikasa to the beach. Wait, we’re going to the beach in the third episode? That seems early for a show that doesn’t take place near the sea. Whatever; Yuu finds himself waiting tables. He tells himself he can’t do it, and so he sucks at it. (Is he getting paid, by the way, or is this just child labor? No one says.)

He’s rewarded by getting to push a giant inflatable orca around, with a Fuuka on top – a Fuuka who in past episodes thought this guy was taking pics of her undies somehow doesn’t see how Yuu might be flustered by the angle he’s viewing her from.

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(Non-romantic first kiss)…or is it?

Of course, the flustering takes them too far out to sea (of course) and the extremely athletic Fuuka suddenly develops a cramp and sinks like a stone (of course) and Yuu has a perfect opportunity to save Fuuka’s life. The show redeems itself somewhat when it’s Yuu, not Fuuka, who ended up passing out and requiring mouth-to-mouth. Fuuka also freaks out about how he almost died.

The “kiss” gets Yuu all riled up and confused; he knows it was rescue breathing, and even hears how Fuuka doesn’t mind indirect kisses since she’s “not a kid”…but later Fuuka tells him to keep the kiss a secret, since it was her first.

SO Yuu decides not to tweet what would have been the most interesting thing he’s ever tweeted. It would be as if the Dos Equis guy wasn’t constantly followed around by cameras.

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You’ve grown so pretty—though I should tell you this right here isn’t the most flattering light angle!

Speaking of celebs Koyuki is headed to the same one as Yuu for work, but wants to get together post-haste. Sure, why not. There are only so many beaches in Japan, right? That being said, I enjoyed the relaxed nature of the two meeting – for the first time since grade school – and slipping right back into an easy interaction, only now, as Fuuka said, they’re not kids.

It’s got to be an exhilarating feeling, and it would make another interesting tweet, but for the fact the Twitterverse would not believe him if he simply said he was meeting up with his childhood friend Hinashi freaking Koyuki, and if he provided photo proof, a lot of people would have problems with it, because…it’s Twitter.

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One person, I imagine, already has a problem with it: Fuuka, who goes out in the rain at night to look for Yuu perhaps forgetting about things called cell phones (Koyuki, for the record, had just gotten done saying how if it weren’t for cell phones, she and Yuu might never have seen each other again.).

And she finds him: on a dock, with her favorite idol in his arms after a freakish wind blew her umbrella away. She also seemed on the verge of saying something important to Yuu. Will Fuuka be upset Yuu never told him (not necessarily fair, as their relationship has so far been, essentially her making him do stuff and him quietly assenting), or will she just be happy to meet Koyuki, even if she’s a rival for Yuu’s heart?

As for the music clu-er, association angle, well, there’s almost no movement, though the beach restaurant guy tells Mikasa not to touch his drums, and Yuu tells Fuuka he can’t play an instrument, but is ignored. And we’ll probably never know if Mikasa got that hot bodyguard’s number…

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Momokuri – 09 + 10

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After an exhaustive search for the perfect swimsuit (driving Norika half-insane), Kuri joins Momo and the rest of their circles of friends for BBQ. And that’s really all this episode is: a nice, pleasant, relaxing slice-of-life BBQ.

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Sure, it draws more attention to one of the other couples, which is non-romantic in nature and between cousins, with the guy somewhat worried about the girl being too close for too long. Ya know, ’cause their respective parents are siblings, and all.

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Moving along, the one person who probably relaxes the least (other than Momo) is Rio, who came in part to try to make some kind of tangible progress on the Momo front. Alas, as much as she stares into his soul, Momo considers her naught but a friend, if he considers her at all.

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Kuri brings her A-game to the BBQ, and even though it’s too cold to swim, Kuri wants to see Momo’s skin so bad she gets it into her head to show him hers, lifting up her skirt to reveal her red swimsuit.

Momo has nothing but compliments for said suit, but makes it clear the compliments he’s making are directed at the suit and not anything else. Bold “reveals” aside, these two can still awfully timid around one another, suggesting the next steps in their courtship won’t come quickly or easily.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 12

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It’s the halfway point of Ore Monogatari!!, so did the show do what anime of every genre typically do around this time and throw a new wrench into the works; a new conflict for Takeo and Yamato to overcome? Well, yes and no. But first, it was a pleasure to see Takeo’s athletic prowess on display in areas besides Judo.

He’s a literal wall of flesh at goalkeeper (and scores a goal on the other end by throwing it baseball-style), and surprisingly graceful on the ice rink; like a penguin underwater. The point is, Takeo is physically gifted; extremely gifted, and combined with his kind heart, makes him socially gifted; he’s always surrounded by friends.

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Yamato is just as popular with her peers, though not because she can perform awesome feats of strength. In addition to her kindness and general affability, Yamato is also pretty good at academics. In fact, it’s one thing she’s much better at than the hulking Takeo. So the “conflict”, if you even want to call it that, is borne out of the fact that eventually these two will go to college.

They both want to attend the same one, but Takeo doesn’t want to make Yamato enroll at a substandard one, so he has to study; exercising a muscle he rarely needs to simply because the rest of his body is so extraordinary.

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He initially enlists the help of Suna, but Yamato also starts stopping by Takeo’s place. When Takeo tells his mother Yamato is indeed his girlfriend, Mom and Dad gradually start to spruce the place up, even though Yamato would be the first one to tell them not to go through too much trouble for her.

What I like so much about Takeo’s parents is that A.), they’re both alive, which seems like a minority in anime; B.) they’re still happily married, with a baby on the way; and C.) they genuinely love their son and are both grateful for and protective of him. In addition, as Yamato remarks, Takeo really is a composite of his parents, with nearly equal parts of both of them in his physique and personality. Dad is tan and handsome and flashy; Mom is nurturing yet no-nonsense. Both are badass. Takeo is all of the above.

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The parents are so excited about Yamato that neither she nor Takeo can actually study, so they go to Suna’s When Takeo suddenly passes out from too much studying, it isn’t treated like any kind of serious emergency, but rather another opportunity for Yamato to snuggle with him. This time, to her horror, Suna walks in on her, but true to form he assuages her guilt, assuring her didn’t see anything and slinks out, basically saying “as you were.”

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This halfway point also didn’t provide any indications Sunakawa has any ulterior motives about being friends with Takeo, but is really just a caring, loving friend; a brother from another mother. This, again, goes against the usual anime romance archetypes, for which I’m glad. While the show was a smidge more ambiguous earlier on, it is now officially patently ridiculous to think Suna will one day try to steal Yamato from Takeo.

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Not only does he not seem to mind that this is the case, despite liking Yamato (in a non-romantic way, as a good match for his bro), but he doesn’t mope about it either. Suna’s not the most social or open guy despite his popularity, but that seems like a conscious choice rather than any kind of impasse or struggle he has to overcome. The show respects how he lives his life. Suna also derives quite a lot of fun and laughs from being friends with Takeo, as we see again when he plays charades during English study.

So the day of a benchmark (read: practice) exam for the three colleges Takeo and Yamato are trying to get into arrives. Both are bundles of nerves, but Yamato gives him moral support before they get started.

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Looking at the various subjects he studied as various enemies to vanquish, Takeo goes into the exam like a warrior entering a gauntlet. But like Yamato did in a previous test, his multiple choice answers are shifted, a mistake he feverishly tries to correct, resulting in a blizzard of eraser filings and a pool of Takeo sweat.

He gets a “D” in two of the three colleges he aimed for, and an “X” in the difficult-to-get-in one Yamato was trying for, but not only did she not get in either, in a nice bit of villainy from Suna, it’s a women’s only college anyway, so he was never going to get in no matter what!

Also, the “D”s aren’t even that big a deal, because it’s just a dry run. He’ll keep studying, Suna and Yamato will keep helping him, and I have every confidence he’ll get to go to college with Yamato, and maybe Suna too.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 11

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I used to dread beach episodes, but that was before I started watching great anime. I knew there was nothing to fear from an OM!! beach episode; on the contrary, I knew it would be a perfect opportunity for both Rinko and Takeo to take another step in their relationship: seeing each other half-naked.

One thing that’s so great about this show is that the straight-laced looking Rinko is the wild one, while the wild-looking Takeo is the straight-laced one. To him, the beach is about swimming and splitting watermelons and crabbing. To Rinko (and the rest of the guys), it’s mostly about the bods.

Rinko’s intense physical attraction to Takeo often overwhelms her, so it’s good she has a safety net of girlfriends who pick out an appropriate bikini for her, with the goal of getting his heart to skip A beat…not stop it!

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For all of Takeo’s words—both spoken and in his head—Rinko is convinced she must be at least as hot as she believes Takeo to be, or else she’s somehow not good enough. That inherent, presumed inferiority makes it tough for Rinko to reveal her swimsuit to Takeo. In fact, she reveals it to him when the sight of his rippling, sun-dappled muscles put her into a trance and she walks right into the line of fire of his watermelon-splitting stick. Thank God Takeo listens when Suna tells him to stop.

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When Takeo removes his blindfold to see what’s amiss, he catches a glimpse of his girlfriend in a bikini for the first time, and while Rinko doesn’t quite realize it, it’s Mission Accomplished. Takeo himself enters a wild hallucinatory episode, and only Suna’s calm words are able to snap him out of it. It takes effort for Takeo not to totally lose his shit over Rinko’s apocalyptic cuteness, and remind himself she’s dressed in clothes suited for the beach, just like him.

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Things continue to go bumpy for Rinko, though. When she daintily approaches him from behind at lunch, intending to snuggle up against him (something she both wants and her friends urge) his turn back at her causes her to execute Shunpo and retreat behind a column. Later, when she tries to casually grab his arm on the beach, she nearly steps on a sand castle.

Ironically, it’s Takeo who ruins the castle, when Rinko runs off, embarrassed. But thanks to Suna, whom the girls building the sand castle are more than willing to let take over, Takeo can go after his girlfriend.

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As the sun starts to set, Takeo finds her, sulking by the water. Rinko thinks she’s been “really bad” today, thinking only of herself and causing trouble for others. She’s obviously being too hard on herself, so it’s nice when Takeo sits beside her, she can stop worrying about that and draw one of those Japanese love umbrella things in the sand (which Takeo valiantly protects from the rising tide).

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Takeo doesn’t know if it’s the sunset, the swimsuit, or something else, but Rinko looks particularly beautiful to him there and then. The animation sells it, making great use of color, light, movement, and intimate close-ups. We see Rinko exactly as Takeo does, just as we saw how she sees him.

So in awe of the beauty before him, Takeo finally says not “I love her” in his head, but “I love you” out loud, to her face. She reciprocates the sentiment, adding the modifier “lots”, and if it wasn’t for Takeo’s asshole friends (not Suna mind you, who knew to stay the hell away), they’d have definitely shared their first kiss (with both of them awake) right then and there. That’s okay though; I didn’t feel cheated. That kiss will come.

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After fireworks, they board the bus home, and Rinko and Takeo make plans to hang out again, this time at a fireworks festival, where Rinko will try to get his heart to skip with a yukata, believing she failed to do so in a swimsuit. But she couldn’t be more wrong.

As Takeo looks on, he remarks to himself how these two are so rarely on the same page. Yet it likely doesn’t matter, because they’re both so happy. We the audience know that nothing in either of their heads would change that.

Part of what makes romance so exciting, especially early on, is not knowing everything going on in your lover’s head…and the later realization that what was in their head was everything you wanted anyway.

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Nazo no Kanojo X – 05

Tsubaki learns that Urabe’s sweat also conjures images of her in his head; specifically of her in a swimsuit. She chalks it up to sweat being similar to seawater. When summer vacation arrives, he suggest they go to the beach for a day; she agrees. When they meet up at the station on the promised day, he finds her extremely tanned. He also learns why she’s wearing a skirt over her bikini bottoms: wearing scissors on the beach by her dad’s house gave her a scissors-shaped tanline.

Tsubaki seems to learn something new about Urabe every day he’s with her. He’s learning, for instance that sudden movements, especially those close to her, put her on edge. She also likes her yakisoba with lots of ginger and no meat, and mayo if she can get it. She’s also a fast swimmer with a great body, and isn’t above leaning on him if the circumstances are right. But even knowing all these new things about her, she remains, on the whole, the titular mysterious girlfriend. But there’s nothing wrong with that. When we saw the fanservice-heavy preview for this episode, we were expecting the first non-4 outing for Nazo no Kanojo X. However, we were plesantly surprised.

This episode maintained the quality of its predecessors, while moving Tsubaki and Urabe’s relationship further along by having them finally go on an honest-to-goodness date, which Urabe is happy to agree to, as she likes the ocean. Her sudden, extreme tanness was fittingly odd, while the scissor tanline (aside from being an awesome name for a band) was a priceless “reward of the week” for Tsubaki. Her genuine surprise at getting a nosebleed after tasting his saliva reinforces the fact she’s not yet fully cognizant of how her actions, gestures, and habits turn him on, which is nice, because it means she’s not intentionally messing with him. And we should also mention that nearly half of the episode wasn’t about the date at all, but Tsubaki’s anticipation – including a goofy grin that took over his face.


Rating: 9 (Superior)