SSSS.Dynazenon – 05 – Hurry Up, But Don’t Run

Chise is honing her piloting skills while suggesting Yomogi and Koyomi combine Soldier and Striker, which turns out to be too top-heavy. There isn’t time for further training, as everyone has plans. Yomogi accompanies Yume to the next choral alumnus, who shows them video of Kano. Yomogi is glad to be by her side, but as she investigates her sister, he’s more intent on learning more about her.

Koyomi takes Inamoto up on her offer to have a drink together, even if he’s weary of drinking with a married woman. She doesn’t seem to see the harm, but she’s clearly always been less inhibited, as evidenced by a flashback from the two in middle school with Inamoto making Koyomi promise not to tell anyone about the window she broke, before offering to show him…something.

After their meet-up, Chise is there to warn Koyomi about past women, and informs him and everyone else that she won tickets to a water park. Yomogi had just been thinking about trying to maybe ask Yume out on a date, so Chise inadvertently does Yomogi a solid here. Thus begins Dynazenon’s pool / beach episode, with Gauma having the ulterior motive of capturing Shizumu.

This means more skin, as well as the opportunity to shed inhibitions, but Yume takes a long look at the black sleeve Chise keeps on her arm, perhaps wondering if Chise is hiding the marks of self-harm. Once everyone is in their swimsuits, Gauma urges Yomogi and Yume to pretend to be lovers, and even at first when she’s munching on a churro and he’s not sure what to do or say, they really do pull it off! It’s not always non-stop excitement for couples, after all.

Once she has some food in her stomach, Yume cuts loose as Yomogi and Shizumi keep her company. There’s a particularly sweet moment when Yomogi grasps Yume’s inner tube to keep them close in the wave pool.

But Yume’s mood sours when she hears a surprised woman scream after her boyfriend accidentally knocks her into the water. Dark images of her sister’s fate flash in her eyes, and she just can’t continue the fun.

That’s fine with Yomogi, who stays with her as she recovers in a kind of calming grotto. He’s not sure quite what she’s feeling, but knows it’s not the best, and simply wants to be there for her. Shizumu also turns up there, unfazed by Gauma’s half-assed attempts to grab him.

He asks Yomogi if he and Yume are dating, then mentions he considers it “sad” that people seek freedom by “constraining themselves” with labels like dating, influencing and being influcence by others. None of that sounds that bad to Yomogi, however.

Unfortunately, there’s a kaiju on the way, and it’s Shizumu’s turn to pilot. Amusingly, his comrade Mujina would prefer to just stay at the water park; naturally the Eugenicists are also in their swimsuits. This new kaiju can melt metal, and also has a nasty laser beam that threatens Yume’s Dyna Wing.

With Chise joining Yomogi in Soldier, they combine with Koyomi to form Soldier Striker, then everyone eventually merges into Dyna Rex and blast the shit out of the kaiju.

I loved the souped-up Inky-from-Pac-Man look of this week’s kaiju, and the fact he can flip upside down into a more menacing form. But as with previous battles, the Dyna Team doesn’t really run into that many problems, while Shizumu isn’t that miffed about losing, and joins the other Eugenicists at the water park.

After the battle, Yume thanks Yomogi for “back there”, which I took to mean him being there for her in the grotto when she was feeling blue, not just dealing with the green laser attacks. I love all these little interactions between the two, punctuated as they are with little silences.

But before she can join the others in diving off the cliff into the water, she gets another message from Kano’s club-mate saying he’s gotten ahold of Fuuma, the club president. Yume and Yomogi meet with Fuuma, who starts off with something that’s hard to say, especially with Kano’s sister present: there’s a rumor that what happened to Kano wasn’t an accident, but suicide.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Otherside Picnic – 07 – Queens of the Seaside

Those curious about what became of the American Marines get no answers this week, as the girls are on to their next adventure, this time on a beach. Sorao wakes up in a posh hotel room, having shared the bed with a naked Toriko. She can vaguely remember going shopping and bar hopping, and is proud of her drunk self for plugging in her phone.

While taking a taxi to the beach, both Sorao and Toriko nod off, and when they come to, the taxi is derelict and covered in plants and sand, as if it had been sitting there for years. It looks like they’re still in the Otherside, though with a very Spirited Away vibe with a lush blue and green palette.

The duo do a thorough search of a long-abandoned beach shop that, while creepy, contains no active threats, so on Toriko’s urging they change into the bikinis they bought yesterday(?) and proceed to have a fun time on the beach, drinking beer and practicing shooting. The Okinawan afterlife of Narai Kanai is also referenced as the two discuss the Alcatraz-like ruin on the horizon.

Sorao’s been letting her have her way so much, Toriko is worried Sorao could get sick of her, but that’s not the case. Indeed, Sorao again tries to bring up her feelings, only to miss her chance once again. Regardless, she’s happy to be having fun on the beach, a place she never felt was her scene. It’s also a welcome deviation from the standard Otherside aesthetic.

Their solitary fun is cut short when they hear odd noises and discover zombie-like punks beating up little kids. When Sorao and Toriko are rushed, Toriko freezes up, but Sorao shoots them all down before they can get to them. Toriko is impressed: Sorao can shoot and kill to protect herself and Toriko, but she credits Toriko with helping steel her resolve.

Sorao can also see with her eye that the punks weren’t human, but reanimated piles of washed-up beach detritus. Suddenly, the skies turn blue and brooding, which Sorao remembers the captive Toriko saying was the most dangerous time to be in the Otherside. A legion of creepy child-dolls bursts out of the beach shop while huge walrus-like beasts appear on the beach. The girls are well and truly freaked out.

They also don’t have enough ammo to deal with all of these creepy monsters great and small, so Sorao arranges for their exit, using her eye, Lady Hasshaku’s hat, and Toriko’s hand to open a portal. A great light flashes from the dissolving hat, turning all of the monsters back into garbage, and the girls fall through.

They emerge back in the normal world, apparently still on the beaches of a populated, non-ruined Okinawa, and perhaps where they had their day and night of shopping and drinking. Before the portal closes, Sorao spots a woman with flowing black hair. Could it be Uruma Satsuki, mentioned by one of the monster boys as part of the “Queen of the Beach” urban legend?

If it was, Toriko didn’t see her, and Sorao doesn’t bring it up. Instead, they have some beers and enjoy the fireworks, even though they’re broke and not sure how they’ll get home. As always, because they’re living in the moment together, nothing else seems to matter as much.

With its fun girls trip to the beach-turned-freaky seaside monster convention, Urasekai Picnic again scores high marks for its mastery of mood and atmosphere, and the cozily-infectious chemistry of Sorao and Toriko.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Warlords of Sigrdrifa – 05 – Black Cod

After the Tateyama crew are introduced to Valkyrie Amatsuka “Big Sis” Yayoi and her Shield Squadron, they all bathe together (in an extremely indulgent but lavishly animated scene of fanservice) with the exception of Sonoka, who seems to have bad blood with Yayoi.

Amatsuka is typically assigned to where the fighting is heaviest, and this time that’s the Fuji Primary Pillar, due to be attacked shortly after it enters its dormant state. Tateyama is the stage for the decisive battle for Japan, and this week is the calm before the storm.

Claudia and Azu visit Odin, who is a picture of confidence as he beats Azu in a Street Fighter II-like video game featuring pilots from the show. He admits that Claudia was also transferred here in preparation for the big Primary Pillar fight, since she’s a Named, and Japan lost theirs (Ortlinde). He also tells Azu that while her mind is a “gem”, she’s “mediocre” as a Valkyrie. I wouldn’t be surprised if Azu remains a Valk nevertheless due to Miko.

The next day, the five Valkyries have a meal at a popular spot; the last big meal they’ll have before the coming battle. Miko intends to mend fences between Yayoi and Sonoka, but it doesn’t go well. Yayoi also teases Azu by pretending to claim Miko as a wife. As for Claudia, she blindly orders a black cod, but is able to resolutely power through the gigantic fatty fish, impressing Yayoi.

Sonoka seeks refuge in the commander’s office, and we see that on his desk is the previous Tateyama squadron, composed of her, Yayoi, Ortlinde, and a redhead I can’t place. Obviously something went down, and Sonoka blames Yayoi for it. As for the commander, like the other adults he simply wallows in despair for having to deploy such young kids to fight the Pillars.

Later that night, everyone assembles in the control tower to see if the Primary Pillar goes dormant, which it does right on time. That said, as soon as they attack it, it will wake up and start fighting back. They’ll have a slight window of surprise when it will be defenseless, so they’ll have to hit it with all they’ve got. I for one can’t help but be worried about any one of the Valkyries—the death flag-wreathed Miko in particular.

Warlords of Sigrdrifa – 04 – Seeing the Sea…and a Whole Lot More

The Pillars seem to have a new trick up their sleeve: attacking in a group of four, each time one of them is splashed by the Valkyries, it is almost immediately revived by the other three. All the while, a terrible high-pitched whine is emitted from the Pillars, distracting Azu enough to get hit and have to make an emergency landing, where the Pillars’ signal eventually knocks her out.

But thanks to some rest, a tasty meal provided by the grateful civilians of Tateyama, and some video footage from three kids, Azu is able to determine that the high-pitched signal is what the Pillars use to communicate their need to regenerate when destroyed. If the Pillars can make that signal, then they can disrupt it.

The problem is, they won’t have the element of surprise if they just fly in, because the Pillars are strategically positioned so that one is far from the others, as well as widening their effective search range. The three-man support wing devises a solution for the Valkyries: taking a detour to base by sea. And because they’ll be at sea, everyone will have to dress accordingly. That’s right, folks: it’s a swimsuit episode.

Last week Sigrdrifa successfully engendered genuine and profound drama pathos when Miko and Claudy performed their Valkyrial duty to help a soldier pass on. This week it switches gears entirely, declining to build on that drama and instead dispensing with both peril and seriousness in favor of a gonzo fanservice bonanza.

Mind you: this isn’t only about putting our main quartet of ace pilots in skimpy swimsuits—there’s ample beefcake (and buttcheek-slapping) to go along with the bikinis (or in Sono’s case, a standard-issue school one-piece). The Valks’ support crew consider it an honor to guid their idols through an Abyss-like vertical labyrinth, even locking their bodies together to form a bridge.

By the time the four emerge from a swimming pool and Claudy sneezes, the Pillars are on their tail, but fortunately they’re able to run to their Hero Wings and take to the skies, thanks in part to well-timed backup by a fifth Valkyrie, whom we’re sure to be introduced to next week. Was this a shameless expedition in conspicuous exhibition? Hell yeah it was. Was it also a ton of fun as long as you kept your brain switched off? Also yes.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 63 – Waves, Listen to Her!

It’s still winter, but that doesn’t stop Sakura & Co. from donning their swimsuits and hitting up the new state-of-the-art indoor water park. It’s an episode heavy on character count and slice-of-life and light on…well, everything else! But that’s okay; sometimes it’s nice to just kick back and relax at the pool (though I’ll admit to being envious; pools in my city were closed all summer due to you-know-what!).

Like Tomoyo, Syaoran is smitten with Sakura’s swimsuit, but things have gotten to the point where all he can do is stare at her. Naturally, Touya and Yukito have part-time jobs at the park’s restaurant, but this time Nakuru joins them, lending her another opportunity to glom onto Touya, who is otherwise still concerned about Yukito’s tendency to, uh, fade out of existence now and then.

Even Kero-chan manages to smuggle himself into the park in Sakura’s bag and steals her cream soda when she’s not looking, only to get harshly scolded (Sakura even bears a fang, a rare occurrence unless she’s protesting her brother’s teasing). Otherwise everything’s peachy until Eriol summons a  massive wave that threatens to drown Rika (who is still learning to swim from Sakura), among others.

Sakura can’t very well summon her wand and cards out in the open, so she has a clever solution: do it while she’s in a water slide! She conjures and converts Watery to a Sakura Card, who proceeds to make it rain inside the park, which has the effect of lowering the water level, thus rescuing Rika.

In another private corner of the park Nakuru straight up asks Eriol why he insists on “doing cumbersome things” like this; he tells her she’ll find out soon enough. I certainly hope so!

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 06 – Rich People Light Switches!

Realizing it would be better to make money as an employee while messing with Sakurai than spend money as a customer, Uzaki gets a part-time job at the cafe. Sakurai takes her through a formal training session, but Uzaki has been there so often she already knows the ropes, and she and Ami use the time to wind him up. Then Sakurai’s friend Sakaki suggests the four of them go on a trip to the beach, and the beach episode is off to the races.

Ami is extremely intimidated by Uzaki’s bazongas in the changing room, but once outside is disappointed to see Sakurai busy hardcore swimming in the ocean while leaving Uzaki alone to be hit on others. When Sakaki breaks out the watermelon piñata, Uzaki’s chaotic fighting game-style directional outputs backfire, as he ends up stumbling onto her and his hand inexplicably ends up grabbing one of her boobs.

 

That evening, after making themselves at home at Sakaki’s family summer home (where Uzaki and Sakurai both marvel at the mod cons), and after some BBQ he suggests they have a good old-fashioned Test of Courage! While he had hoped Uzaki would get scared and seek comfort from Sakurai, the opposite happens, with the test having to be called off because Sakurai is absolutely paralyzed with fear. Like Kinomoto Sakura, the dude just can’t handle scary stuff!

Back at the house Uzaki wants to play video games, but Sakurai is already out cold. When she draws close, hoping to capitalize on his vulnerability, he grabs her and holds her close while still asleep. As she’s certain he’d never do this while awake, and recognizes that the whole reason he’s so wiped is that she ran him ragged with the test of courage, she decides it’s okay for them to stay in this position for a little while.

We never learn quite how long that is, but in the morning when they’re both brushing their teeth in the bathroom Uzaki mentions how he could probably do with a body pillow, Ami and Sakaki’s imaginations run wild. So the beach episode results in Sakurai reaching second base (while blindfolded) and spending the night with Uzaki (while totally unconscious). Still, you can’t say they haven’t technically gotten closer, which was Sakaki’s whole plan.

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 03 – The Lies Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Mami goes back on her offer to take Kazuya to her place, as she claims her brother is home (her text relays no such thing), but that offer leads Kazuya to ask if she wants to go to his place instead. Mami blames that offer on the alcohol, then continues to rag on Mizuhara as someone prone to flying off the handle.

Despite his intense desire for Mami’s continued approval, Kazuya finally challenges Mami’s barbs and defends Chizuru, throwing her off balance, then runs off. He eventually encounters Chizuru on the balcony, and the two mostly make up, but a blubbering Kazuya once again blows past the client-rental girlfriend boundaries.

Kazuya ends up going on a beach trip to Shimoda, Izu with his friends, including Mami, who said it was okay for Kazuya to come with his girlfriend. Of course, it’s not okay at all, but since as far as she knows they’re a legit couple, Mami has made it her mission to break the two up.

Judging from what we’ve seen of her and her “dark side” when she pounds toxic vitriol into her private Twitter identity “Numa”, Mami is only still interested in Kazuya because he’s acquired a hot girlfriend. If he were still single, she probably wouldn’t acknowledge his existence. It’s not about her getting him back, it’s about taking him from an opponent.

And darn it all if Mami is not an absolute master at using the tools at her disposal, what she knows of Kazuya, and how she knows he felt about her to keep him in a constant state of imbalance. He can’t take his eyes of her adorable stars-and-stripes bikini, and she even brings up the good times they had together, going so far as to lament the unborn “Maya”, the name they said they’d give their firstborn child.

Just then, Mizuhara appears in the form of the braided, glasses-wearing Ichinose, and since this is that kind of show it seems even Mami knows she and Mizuhara are one and the same. Still, the fact one of their friends knows one of her friends makes the rental girlfriend and college classmate identities way too close for comfort.

The universe would seem to be having fun continually bringing Kazuya and Chizuru together, because they not only end up in the same supermarket, but the same bathroom within that supermarket. Kazuya informs her he and Mami are getting along, but tells her he feels bad even though she’s not his real girlfriend; after all, there were moments when Chizuru has stuck her neck out not out of her professional obligation, but because she’s a good person.

Of course, there’s nothing more humiliating or cringe-inducing to Chizuru than hearing Kazuya doing something resembling having pity on her for pursuing his ex, so they end up in a shouting match…which gains the unwanted attention of Mami, who came to help Kazuya with shopping.

When Chizuru is trapped and Mami isn’t buying Kazuya’s half-baked lies, Chizuru comes out in her bikini so as to at least take Ichinose off the board. Of course, the result of this surprises everyone, as they thought she couldn’t make it to the trip with Kazuya.

After “stealthily” zipping up her jacket after catching a sight of Chizuru’s swimsuit, Mami switches to conciliatory mode, apologizing for her words the other day. But then she’s off alone by herself, unleashing another twitter-storm of pure disgust, and the expression on her face scares away a random guy who tries to hit on her. It seems the account is a release valve for her true emotions, so Kazuya isn’t the only one hiding things.

Chizuru tells Kazuya she’s leaving and tells him to make an excuse for her, and they bring up the fact that this could all have been avoided if Kazuya told everyone they broke up. Of course, it’s too late for that. Mami is close by, but seemingly doesn’t hear the specifics of their chat.

After some awkward conversation on the beach, Kazuya goes off on his own, leaving Chizuru with his friends, but Mami lures him to a rock outcropping where she apparently lost her expensive bracelet. While he looks with her, she slips on a stone, falls into his arms, and Mami makes her move, pulling close and kissing him. He doesn’t recoil. This, just as Chizuru is being asked how she can let her boyfriend go on a trip with other girls, and her responding that she “trusts” Kazuya.

Of course the only thing he can be trusted to do is maintain this increasingly complicated, ultimately untenable limbo! He knows Mami would laugh him into the stone age if she learned Chizuru was a rental girlfriend. And yet, he just can’t resist Mami’s flirting and advances, despite her thinking Chizuru is his legit GF, thus making anything he does with Mami cheating.

It remains to be seen if Chizuru simply doesn’t want to hurt Kazuya’s gran, or if she actually developing feelings for the guy. I’m pretty confident that if Kazuya “dumps” Chizuru for Mami one afternoon, Mami will dump him later that evening, her objective achieved. Then again, I’m starting to think Kazuya and Mami deserve each other. It’s all kinds of wonderfully, horribly messy, and I am freaking here for it.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – 09 – Gettin’ Fishy With It

When Kokkoro wins a raffle for a beach tip, the Gourmet Guild don their tropical best and head out to the surf and sands. Kokkoro is particularly nervous about how cute she looks in her swimsuit, but a thumbs-up from Yuuki allays her fears. Peco also reveals that her armor gives her extensive attribute boosts at the cost of becoming hungrier more easily. Among friends it’s no big deal, but it’s also vital intel Karyl may feel she has to pass on to her master.

This is a beach episode that doesn’t really subvert any expectations; suffice it to say there’s no shortage of stylish swimwear and skin, and everyone looks great. Its middle section is essentially the first episode of Food Wars’ now-postponed fifth season: a battle of seaside food stands. Saren and Suzume run a stand that’s deserted due to their rivals the Mercurius Foundation, led by Akito, Saren’s childhood friend. Her underling Tamaki has devised a taiyaki that’s irresistible to the beach crowds.

Thus the Gourmet Guild actually have a quest that fits with their mission: to seek out, explore, and create new tastes. This starts by gathering as much fresh seafood as they can, but Peco’s “ice sushi” isn’t going to cut it. At the same time, another member of Mercurius, Yukari, gets depressed about all the lovey-dovey couples around and hits the bottle hard. Tamaki tosses her into a section of beach where a kraken was sighted, and it’s ultimately up to the Gourmet Guild to vanquish the monster and rescue the loaded Yukari.

Peco proves more than capable of handling the beast even without her armor. The defeated kraken is split up and grilled, become Saren’s hot new specialty dish that restores the balance between food stands. Saren and Akito share a moment of mutual respect and admiration, with Saren thanking her old friend for offering her a job, but preferring theirs to be a dynamic of equals.

To reward her comrades for a job well done, Karyl (clearly putting her darker mission out of her head) casts an underwater breathing spell on everyone, and they take a plunge beneath the waves. There, Kokkoro has an almost spiritual experience, remembering the vast expanses of the universe she used to daydream about, and now finding that real life can be just as exciting and rewarding.

It’s a surprisingly poignant (not to mention beautiful) closing scene that bumps this episode from a 7 to an 8 in my books, and further cements PriConne as the feel-good comfort food show of the Spring. It also makes any possible future betrayal by Karyl that much more heartbreaking.

Shokugeki no Souma 5 – 01 – Tha Last Meal Begins

It’s a New Day, yes it is at Totsuki Academy. The rebellion is over, the evil empire fell, and now it’s time to rule. Erina does the ruling as the new Director, while Souma achieved what he set out to do back on Day One of Year One: claim the First Seat of the Elite Ten.

Filling out the other seats are chefs he’s fought beside and against. For the final exams, Erina puts the new Elite Ten at several disadvantages as they attempt to make 3 million in profit with a ramshackle beach hut on the dark corner of the beach.

Erina seems genuinely happy in her new role leading the academy to educational and creative freedom. Similarly, she’s never had an easier or warmer manner with Souma. The two are two peas in a pod right up until he tells her she’s prettier when she smiles (she did not solicit such explicit flirting!).

Erina also learns a little about how Souma’s mom used to man the kitchen with his dad. I imagine we’ll learn more about this mystery mom this season. If not, we’ll never learn…this is the final season, isn’t it?

As for the exam challenge, the Elite Ten bounce off each other and bicker for the first two days as they try to get the hut in usable order, but they’ve been in stickier situations before, and as Souma tells a camo-bikini’d Ikumi (who has a lot of screen time this week—not complaining!) it’s the Elite Ten’s job to inspire the rest of the students by achieving the impossible.

In this case, that’s clearing over 3.5 million in just one day’s serving, thanks to putting their heads together and crafting a yakisoba with an irresistible Hayama-developed aroma that ensnares all of the customers on the beach at once. It’s a very quick and rushed challenge, but it’s fun to see everyone working together again without the threat of expulsion looming.

Two new antagonists emerge from this opening episode: first-year rich kid Dakekanba Ken, who vows to make Souma’s Elite Ten reign as brief as possible. Souma for his part admires the kid’s spirit—Ken’s doing exactly what he did, after all! A far larger threat seems poised to emerge in Suzuki-sensei, who shares Erina’s dad’s ghostly white complexion and hair, to the point I initially thought it was Azami with an assumed identity (for whatever reason)!

In any case, this new Defense Against the Dark Culinary Arts teacher admired by all for his good looks wouldn’t look this much like Azami if he wasn’t related. I’ve heard mumblings that the Food Wars manga kind of crashed burned with a disastrous final arc, but my completionist nature precludes me from not finishing the anime adaptation to the end, whether that end is bitter, sweet, salty, sour…or umami.

Cautious Hero – 11 – Seiya the Unready

This episode comes a long way from its comedic beginning, in which Rista leads Eruru and Mash on a shopping trip, she ends up sniping with a clothier about topless and bottomless swimsuits, then gets the idea to arrange an evening that will end with scoring with Seiya.

Things take a distinct turn when, upon returning to the palace at sundown, Seiya is nowhere to be found. No matter what reasons the three can come up with for his absence, and no longer how long they wait, Seiya…just doesn’t show up.

On the verge of panic, Rista visits Ishtar for guidance, where a tearful Ariadoa leads her, Eruru and Mash to a realm where time stands still. There, Ishtar informs them that Seiya has already headed to the Demon Lord to defeat him himself.

The reason Seiya has been so cold and distant to the three of them is that he actually cares for their well-being to the point he doesn’t want to put them in harm’s way. Since the Demon Lord now has a weapon that can destroy Rista’s soul, Seiya felt it best to keep her away from the battle.

Rista also wasn’t aware due to his Fake Out skill, but Seiya has been totally maxed out since the fight with the Dragons, and has been adding skills like Valkyrie’s Gate of Valhalla to make up for his stagnation (it wasn’t sex after all).

There’s more: Aria is in tears because in a different world 100 years ago, Seiya was the Hero she summoned, and he was far less cautious, adopting the catchphrase “Gonna be okay. Something will work out.” The healer of their party was Tiana, a princess from that world…who happens to have the same eyes, face, and voice as Ristarte.

Things wouldn’t work out for Seiya back then, as his party members were eaten one by one by the Demon Lord, whom he’d insufficiently researched. Tiana meets a particularly grisly doom, as it’s revealed she was with child when the Demon Lord ate her.

Finally, Rista learns that she was Tiana, before she was reborn as a goddess. Neither she nor Seiya retained memories of knowing or fighting each other, but fate brought them back together, and Seiya, knowing he was summoned before and failed, became far more cautious, and hence unwilling to let anyone else die this time around.

It’s a lot for Rista to take in, and Toyosaki Aki does as good a job as she can reacting to it all, but this was an awful lot of exposition, rather inelegantly presented in one big plot-bomb. Regardless, the shift from goofy comedy to serious drama was surprisingly effective, and all the information we learned really does enrich what had initially seemed to be more of a skin deep relationship between Rista and Seiya.

Their history, even if there was no overt memory of it, explains not only why Rista and Seiya are a pair again, but why she’s so devoted, attracted, and at times obsessed with him. One could almost call them soul mates. The issue is, she now knows the truth of their past and he doesn’t, and his overarching mission to defeat the Demon Lord and save Gaeabrande overrides all other considerations.

Of course, Rista isn’t going to let Seiya have his way. She insists on joining up with him, and damn the consequences. Ishtar opens a portal for her, and Eruru and Mash announce they’re coming with her out of solidarity—Seiya saved them, after all. Hopefully, things are gonna be okay, and something will work out.

BokuBen OVA 01 – Unusual Situations

This is one of two extra episodes included with the BokuBen limited edition volume 14 and volume 16. As such, it is not must-watch TV in terms of plot. Instead, thanks to the beach setting, it’s an opportunity for all of the fanservice. Nariyuki and Asumi have been taking various lovey-dovey selfies for the benefit of her father, but when he presses them to go to the beach lest he start to develop doubts they’re really dating, well…what else can they do?

The thing is, Nariyuki can’t swim, so when a wave knocks them off their dinghy, he has to grab Asumi, and in the confusion her bikini top washes away. She wears his wet shirt until they find it washed up on rocks, along with a second, bigger bikini top, but it’s stolen by a dolphin.

Obviously, that top belongs to Kirisu-sensei, who is at that same beach with her fellow teachers at a BBQ. She had retreated from the unpleasant social situation and, well, lost her bikini top. Nariyuki knows her top is gone for good, so stays with her until the changing area clears out. When she trips on a sea cucumber and freaks out, she leaps at him, and he smashes his glasses.

Now Nariyuki truly finds himself in the “unusual situation” his sister could detect with her brocon-spidey-sense—virtually blind and having to be led through the rocks by his topless teacher. They find a shop where the only remaining swimsuit choices are an micro bikini and a school swimsuit. Nariyuki goes for the coverage.

When the other teachers (who are dogs, BTW) spot Nariyuki and ask about Kirisu, he lies and says he hasn’t seen her. Kirisu explains her reluctance to large social events to her past as a solo competitor, viewing everyone as her enemy. Having both covered her (both literally and figuratively), Nariyuki briefly loses himself and comes out and says she’d be in big trouble were it not for him on numerous occasions.

He was trying to make a point on the benefits, and often necessity of occasionally relying on others, as she most certainly has with him, but it came out wrong. To his surprise, he doesn’t get socked for his comments; Kirisu agrees. In a way, he’s kind of a tutor for her, only on matters like this (it’s unlikely she’ll ever learn to clean properly).

Finally, the episode closes on Fumino, Uruka, Rizu and Sawako wearing swimsuits while they study, since they’re not able to go to the beach. Uh huh. Surrre, why not?!

Oresuki – 07 – An Unexpected Side

This week is, as Pansy calls it while breaking the fourth wall, a “totally original swimsuit episode.” Having already befriended his “forever 17” mom Laurier, Joro finds her in his living room, ready for a day of fun at the pool with the others. The episode checks all the boxes when it comes to vertically panning swimsuits, but while boobs come up often, they’re never compared, either by Joro or among the girls, a refreshing departure from the norm.

While in line for drinks, Joro encounters the queen bee from his school, but for whatever reason, doesn’t recognize her (I guess he has anime-vision, so the fact her hair is up is enough). In a very roundabout rhetorical way, she asks how “a friend” (really she) can properly make it up to “someone” (really him) for what was done to them (as a result of the false article).

At first she’s unsatisfied with his “flip” answer that a simple apology will do, but when she directly asks what he would ask of such a girl, he maintains an sincere apology would be enough. If she feels bad enough that it bothers her that an apology is enough, the sincerity will shine through.

Once Joro rejoins his friends, the girls all try to claim Joro for themselves for an activity, then decide to turn it into a competition to determine with whom he’ll have the most fun. Dark Joro can’t help but revel at the present scenario—three girls are competing to make him happy!—but in each instance he gets more than he bargained for.

First, Himawari clutches him closely on the water slide, but it is his trunks (not her swimsuit) that slips off upon splashdown. Sun-chan valiantly swoops in to shield him from her eyes. Second, Cosmos prepares to jump on a pink dolphin with him, but gets distracted by misunderstanding his call to “hurry up” to mean “accelerate your plans for marriage to me.” Sun-chan boards the dolphin instead, so Joro doens’t have to suffer the indignity alone.

Finally, while soaking in the hot tub with Pansy, they exchange thanks for what they’ve done for each other (she’s hanging out with friends, he was able to make up with said friends). But she also brings up all manner of unpleasant information about him he’d really rather no one knew about, such as his reliance on fortune telling, or the location of his porn collection.

Once more, it’s Sun-chan to the rescue, kindly asking Pansy to lay off before Joro comes apart. As such, when it comes time to decide with whom he had the most fun, he picks Sun, leaving the three girls blindsided (though Himawari congratulates Sun, not officially being “after” Joro as Pansy and Cosmos are.)

The next day at school, the It Girl Coalition surrounds Joro menacingly, only to offer heartfelt apologies, and all are impressed by how kindly he accepts them. He learns that the black-haired beauty sitting beside him in Sasanqua’s desk is, in fact, Sasanqua, who took out her hair dye in order to more sincerely apologize. Thus, Joro’s horoscope about seeing “an unexpected side” of someone wasn’t about any of his friends, but the girl he sits beside.

Strangely, this is not the last twist of the episode, nor is it even the last unexpected black-haired beauty Joro encounters in class. That honor goes to a Touyama Nao-voiced transfer student who claims to know Joro gong way back, is hurt he doesn’t remember her, and drops to one knee to kiss his hand as if he were a princess.

I know not what oddness this is, or why his ultimate ideal—”a kind woman who’d do her best for him without conditions”—but I do know that with things now going so swimmingly with his friends and the rumors about him debunked, Joro is in need of a new conflict, and this girl looks to be it!

How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 12 (Fin) – The Friends We Met Among the Weights

The final episode takes most of the cast to Tokyo’s fictional insular island “Nikunoshima” AKA “Muscle Island” where there is an annual contest for bodybuilding and a talent show. Due to the Summery climate the gang gets to show off their new swimsuits in the Spring, though the heat is a bit much for Gina. Hibiki and Akemi only came to see some hot guys and muscles, respectively, so both are crestfallen to learn that part of the contest is cancelled due to lack of participation.

Still, all four girls participate in the talent section, though another Russian steals Gina’s Cossack dance routine, while Ayaka decides to wear to little for her dragon flag demo and gets disqualified. Akemi wows the crowd with perfectly-executed handstand push-ups, while Hibiki demonstrates her superhuman punching power once more.

The two end up in a draw for the win, so they have to face off against one another to break the tie. Akemi relishes the opportunity to compete one-on-one against Hibiki in a bench press-off, but alas, Hibiki is too hungry to attempt even one rep, making Akemi the winner by forfeit.

Jason and Mr. Director had an overarching plan to film the contest “Candid Camera”-style, but the boat they used to try to get their ahead of the girls ends up breaking down, and they end up stranded at sea in a parody of Titanic that, while completely out of left field, is still pretty funny (Barnold ends up rescuing them, though who knows how).

Meanwhile the girls celebrate another successful contest by playing with fireworks on the beach, and Hibiki and Akemi affirm their strong friendship, which for Hibiki meant getting into healthier, better shape, and for Akemi meant meeting new friends who shared her passion for fitness.

Like last week, this episode suffered from a distinct lack of momentum and energy in the storytelling (as opposed to the always-game characters and seiyus) as well as a rehash of elements already used better (Hibiki’s punching, the contest format, swimsuits).

While it didn’t end while at its strongest, Dumbbells was still a fun, unique, quirky, and above all inspiring little show packed with lovable characters. Next month I’ll be joining the gym to try to build a better me. That would not have happened were it not for this show!