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!

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HenSuki – 11 – A Matter of Math

This week’s HenSuki is a pool episode, but the pool trip is only a means with which Keiki intends to expose and confront Cinderella once and for all. And hey, if he gets to see the girls in swimsuits, including one he brought for Mizuha (since the trip is a total surprise for her), that’s just a bonus as far as he’s concerned.

Sayuki and Yuika, whom he’s ruled out as the culprit, get up to their usual antics in fighting over him, while Mao keeps her tsundere schtick going when she gets him to herself. Amidst all the liveliness Mizuha is somewhat shuffled to the side, but Keiki tracks her down and carries her when she gets a cramp, like he used to do when they were both smaller (and about the same size).

When Koharu enlists the girls to participate in a girl confession competition with the audience as the judge, all four girls score 92 or higher, with Mizuha breaking the equipment with her very heartfelt confession of love for her brother.

All of these clues involving Mizuha add up to the revelation in the waiting area that she is Cinderella. Keiki arranged things so that she wouldn’t have a change of underwear except the pair that accompanied the love letter, which she reclaimed and kept in her bag at all times. Koharu’s photo also proves she was where Cinderella would have to be at the time the love letter was planet.

Mizuha accepts that she’s been caught, and appreciates that Keiki went so far to find out it was her, as it meant he had to obsess over her for the duration. That’s because she really is in love with him, and it’s not sibling love. When Keiki tells her he’s flattered but he’s not okay with a brother and sister having romantic feelings, she drops a bombshell: they’re not related by blood.

While it’s still somewhat dubious Keiki would be okay with suddenly regarding a girl he’d always treated like a sister (by blood or not) romantically, I’m more shocked that after all these years he never considered it odd that the two of them were only five months apart in age. Seems like a pretty big oversight!

With the central mystery solved and just one episode to go, Keiki has a choice to make: accept Mizuha’s feelings and adjust their relationship accordingly, or reject her and either choose one of the others or choose nobody. Decision time!

Astra Lost in Space – 05 – The Kids Are Alright…Right??

Even after last week’s harrowing ordeal, the crew is not yet ready to pack up and leave Shummoor—not until they’ve gathered enough food. Thanks to a successful hunch from Charce, they learn that the pole trees, once their nemesis, are actually the yummiest food on the planet, and with the stores filled, the Astra departs from Planet #2.

The crew are also grateful to Yunhua, whose voice had both physical and psychological healing effects for all who were poisoned. That gratitude quickly shifts to straight-up admiration when they learn she’s the daughter of the superstar singer Lucy Lum. She then enlists Luca to give her a haircut, and Quitterie bristles as all the guys swoon.

Meanwhile, back home, Aries’ mom Emma listens to her daughter’s last video message to her, saying all is well—and probably isn’t watching it for the first time. It’s been over forty days since Team B5 was last seen on McPa, and Ulgar’s father has gathered all the other parents to decide whether to call off the search and declare their children permanently lost.

Emma is not ready to make that determination, and even correctly conjectures that the reason there’s neither remains nor luggage on McPa is because their kids are somewhere in space, still alive. But many of the parents are past the “denial” phase of loss (or don’t love their kids as much as her) and are ready to give up.

Meanwhile, at the very same time, many thousands of light years away, not only are their kids perfectly fine…they’re living it up on a tropical beach.

Planet #3 is Arispade – which is 99% water with one tiny islet that features a wealth of food and a sugar-white beach on which to break out and show off one’s swimsuit. It’s paradise. It’s so paradise, Quitterie almost loses it; after all they’ve been through, why are things suddenly so easy and comfortable that she can totally see herself living out the rest of her days on that beach?

Since this is, in fact, Kanata no Astra‘s beach episode, it wastes no time delivering the goods, as Quitterie insists on comparing boob sizes with Aries and Yunhua, and also assures Aries she’ll have no problem attracting Captain Kanata with her “spicy” bikini. The implication flusters Aries.

Back on the ship, there’s more good slice-of-life, with Quitterie pressing her attack upon Aries, urging her to go ask Kanata out, or at least find out if he already has a boyfriend. Aries actually musters the courage to ask him if he’s popular with girls (he says he’s popular with “all humans”) and then asks if he has a girlfriend (he says all girls are his friends). Neither Aries or Quitterie are happy with Kanata’s lame replies. Quitterie exacts swift punishment by sticking Kanata’s toothbrush up his nose; Aries goes to bed early; dejected.

Meanwhile, Luca thinks he’s making progress becoming friends with Ulgar, having fashioned a bow, arrow, and fishing poles for him to do what he apparently does best: shoot and hunt. Yet Ulgar remains aloof and hostile, and becomes…something else entirely when he learns that Luca’s last name is Esposito, and that he’s the son of a senator back home.

Ulgar’s reaction—like a switch had been flipped in his head, combined with the image of the gun we saw a couple weeks back, spell nothing but dread for the final scene of the episode, an otherwise placid sunset repast among the crew members, with only one person absent: Ulgar.

After waxing romantic about the time they have and how neither photos nor medically secured memories will ever adequately convey the emotions they’ve felt in the last fifty-or-so days, and Luca remarks that he doesn’t even believe there’s an enemy among them, that enemy finally reveals himself, and points his gun at Luca’s head, warning he’ll shoot if he moves.

And that my friends is how you go from a solid “8” episode that lacked any danger or difficulty for twenty-two minutes, to a solid “9” in the twenty-third. The good-old cliffhanger. It doesn’t even matter if the most likely of the crew to be the bad guy is the bad guy (unless he isn’t, and there are more twists afoot); that was marvelously done.

How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 04 – No Gym? No Ocean? No Problem!

Due to a large volume of summer casual trainers at the gym, Hibiki and Akemi aren’t able to access the “free weights” like the bench press and dumbbells, so on Machio’s advice they train instead on machines like the chest press machine, which are a good way to diversify the way one exercises a muscle group.

Ayaka also joins the gym to give boxing classes, and is as immediately smitten with (a fully clothed) Machio as Hibiki and Satomi were…before he struck his signature “Side Chest!”, that is.

The first day Hibiki, Akemi and Ayaka meet up to go to the gym as a trio, Silverman is unexpectedly closed for the day. While they lacked their primary training equipment at the gym, not having access to a gym at all means getting more resourceful.

Akemi invites the other two to her palacial house, and shows them a beefcake-packed video by Ozu Toshio, apparently Machio’s sensei. They learn reverse sit-ups and dips using chairs, but unfortunately when Hibiki ups the difficulty by attempting dips with a backpack full of books, she breaks two antique chairs she later learns could sell at auction for hundreds of millions of yen. Oops!

Finally, the three girls (plus Satomi, in another case of pure coincidence) hit the beach to show off their tight new bods, only to learn the summer swimming season is closed due to hammerhead sharks in the water.

Not one to be discouraged by a setback, Akemi shows the others how to do burpees, which exercise the entire body (which she proceeds to expose in the instructional video), followed by sprints along the beach. While everyone gets properly worn out by day’s end, everyone rightly feels a great sense of accomplishment. Who needs gyms, or even the sea, when you have a nice stretch of sand?

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 23 – Island Grind

Naofumi, Raphtalia, and Filo meet their cabin-mates L’Arc Berg and Therese Alexanderite (Hayami Saori), neither of whom will believe he’s the Shield Hero. Not because he doesn’t look the part, but because they deem themselves good enough judges of character to conclude he’s not “that scumbag,” not realizing that his scumbag reputation is largely fiction.

In a wonderful bit of karmic justice, the other three heroes who took all the private cabins end up horribly seasick for the duration of the voyage to Cal Mira, and Filo doesn’t make it any better by violently catching strong-smelling shark-fish for dinner.

Once they arrive at the island and get out into the field, they find even small fry net huge amounts EXP…until all four heroes end up in the same spot. Rather than bicker with the others, Naofumi & Co. take a boat to another island, where the monsters are tougher the EXP greater, and the enemy drops both epic and timely, as the weapons Raphtalia and Filo started needed replacing from overuse.

After a day of gaining two dozen-plus levels, the party makes camp, but L’Arc and Therese arrive, responding to their ferryman who was worried they were killed. These are the kind of guys who won’t let acquaintances die out in the field if they can help it…but I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of dread about them. After all, “Myne” seemed like a nice partner at first too.

The five head back to an inn for food and drink, and we see that Cal Mira is as much about pleasure and fun as it is grinding for levels and loot. Kevin Penkin rolls out another beautiful orchestral theme over the carousing scene, which includes Raph getting drunk on wine and beating the racist knight at arm wrestling, as well as Naofumi not getting drunk at all on the same intoxicating fruit that knocks Motoyasu to the floor.

The next morning, Raph seems to have suffered no hangover, and L’Arc and Therese join Naofumi’s party for the day’s grind. Naofumi also presents Therese with the accessory she commissioned, and its power and craftsmanship quite literally move her to tears as she hands Naofumi all the gold she has.

Naofumi, Raph and Filo learn that L’Arc and Therese are very good to have on your side in a fight, as the former is another trusty swordsman while the latter has powerful offensive magic of a style none of them ever heard of. Naofumi even cracks a smile or two; while L’Arcs type usually rubs him the wrong way (See: Motoyasu) they get along just fine.

After a somewhat awkward farewell where L’Arc and Therese decline Naofumi’s invitation to join them tomorrow, they part ways. I’d like to see the duo again, even if they turn out to be plotting against him. Naofumi decides to take the next day off, which means both Filo and Raphtalia get to show off the very stylish swimsuits they bought at the market. Sadly for Raph, Naofumi still doesn’t see her as a potential love interest, and never will.

The lightweight atmosphere of sun and fun is interrupted by Filo’s discovery of underwater ruins (incidentally one of my favorite levels in FFX), which contain a Dragon Hourglass. That’s bad news because it means Cal Mira is a target for the next Wave of Catastrophe, which is just 48 hours and change away. With that, the stage is set for the final battle of Shield Hero‘s first season, as well as the possibility it will end with a bang rather than a whimper.

Isekai Quartet – 09 – Chibis in Bikinis

The beach trip is finally here, which means fans of the four series see the characters in modern swimsuits for the first time, albeit in chibi form. Still, the animation definitely seems to make Darkness more proportional as she does a thousand push-ups under Cocytus’ orders just so she can be gawked at by Tanya’s men. This, in turn, draws the ire of Ram and Visha, condemning the lads as scumbags for indulging the masochist with their stares.

The daytime events are pretty dull, but things heat up at night when the class splits up into groups for the big test of courage. Tanya is paired with Subaru, Ainz, and Aqua, and loses her cool when Aqua explains that she’s a goddess. Tanya initially mistakes her for Being X and prepares to launch when Ainz estimates to be Level 8 magical power on Yggdrasil.

Subaru stands between Tanya and Aqua, and along with Ainz all agree that Aqua is too much of a lightweight loser to be the Being X she’s talking about.  A couple of Tanya’s own men fall ill due to what she deems “lack of mental discipline”, but Ainz is duly impressed that Subaru took that wave of power in the face at point-blank range like it was nothing. Ainz asks himself what kind of mental stress Subaru is used to living under…If he only knew!

Isekai Quartet – 08 – Shopping in a New World

Ainz proposes a group activity during the class field trip to the beach, and Aqua immediately raises her hand in opposition…until she learns the idea was actually Emilia’s, in the interest of the various class members getting along better.

Aqua has definitely been the most antagonistic towards another character—in this case, the undead Ainz—but when Subaru talks about the purpose of a test of courage, joins Ram in castigating him. Still, everyone agrees that the night  activity will indeed be a test of courage; Emilia just needs Subaru to tell her what it is!

The students also need to head to a department store to buy swimsuits. You’d think that would mean they’d actually try them on, which would in some cases show many of the characters wearing different outfits—a rare occurrence to be sure. That doesn’t happen this week, as don’t yet make it to the beach.

Instead, Albedo and Shalltear try to pick out the best skimpy Speedo for Ainz-sama, and when Aqua crosses paths with them again, Kazuma plays peacemaker. He wigs out when he learns Albedo is a succubus (based on his experience in his isekai) but Shalltear drags her fellow floor guardian by telling him she’s still a pure maiden and laughing about it.

For that, Aqua actually takes Albedo’s side; saving yourself for the one you love isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Instead, she inadvertently drags Shalltear by declaring the only thing to be ashamed of is padding your chest, as her fellow goddess Eris—and Shalltear—do. A such, it is Albedo who gets the last laugh.

Senryuu Shoujo – 08 – Grand Unveiling

It’s Summer, which means Summer Vacation, which means swimsuits. Amane wants to attract a man, and asks Tao to use her crystal ball to help her pick one out for that purpose. For her part, Nanako doesn’t even own one, as she hasn’t been in a pool since she was little.

Amane takes Tao, Nanako and Kino to the store where they are faced with far too large a selection. All the while, Tao’s ball suggests a slingshot bikini for Amane that is “just strings,” while Eiji is ambushed in his room by Koto in a stunning black bikini. If he’s going to have eyes for another girl, she’s clearly making sure he knows what he’s missing.

Nanako, by nature a modest person, starts out with a swimsuit indistinguishable from a dress, then a sarong, but eventually settles on a white bikini that catches the attention of everyone at the pool. It happens to be the same pool where Eiji is taking his little sister, which means he’s present for Nanako’s “grand unveiling” (Amane’s term, not mine!)

She runs back into the changing room, and when Amane tells him what the deal is, he apologizes to Nanako and tells her he’ll keep his distance and avert his gaze. Of course, Nanako wants neither of those things, and so rushes back outside to grab him and assert that it’s okay for him to look, a little—all using a tanzaku she seemingly conjured out of nowhere!

Domestic na Kanojo – 11 – There’s Always Someone Better

After lying and keeping secrets for so long, Natsuo finally tells Rui everything, from his long time love of Hina to his determination to be with her in the future. But just because it’s the truth doesn’t make the words sting any less. After sharing one last kiss and an evening of private sobbing, Rui is also determined to move on from Natsuo.

Of course, since it’s impossible for Rui to not handle such things in an odd way, she announces to Natsuo the next morning that she’s decided to “start disliking him.” I can’t say I blame her, as Natsuo has grown more selfish and insufferable with each passing week, but in her case it’s a defense mechanism. She’ll still treat him like family, but otherwise, she’s done.

At least Natsuo gets to talk to Rui; Rui freezes out Hina both on LINE and at school, where Natsuo and Hina misguidedly meet up once again to discuss it. The episode suddenly makes a hard right turn from the love triangle to…the “Natsuo Striving to be an Author” plot, when Rui wins an award instead of him (or Miu, for that matter).

This shakes Natsuo to his core, despite the fact, if he’s honest, he’s spent far more time lately being a horndog with Hina than he has crafting brilliant narratives. Still, he believes the solution is to go to Akari’s house announced and beg him to make him his apprentice. It’s not any more pleasant than Natsuo begging for sex.

His sensei turns him down in this case, because becoming his apprentice is not the way to go about becoming a good author; it takes actual struggle and hard work, not just connections. Natsuo takes this to mean writing one short story per week. Then, in another bit of whiplash, the episode makes another hard turn to School Beach Trip territory.

This means not only Rui and Miu and Momo in swimsuits, but Hina as well, and as she plays volleyball with the students, she looks more like a teacher than a student. Rui takes her aside to remark on the inappropriateness of her swimsuit, but Hina is so happy she’s not ignoring her anymore, that it leads to the two making up.

Rui isn’t interested in Hina breaking up with Natsuo if she still has real feelings for him; instead, she’s prepared to concede him to her and pursue other options. Honestly it’s probably a good move by Rui…if she can stick the landing. But Rui’s assurances don’t dissuade Hina from deciding to break up with Natsuo anyway, since it’s just not a tenable relationship.

It’s disappointing to see Hina’s position so callously overruled by Natsuo thanks to a cheap ring and a promise that he’ll make an honest woman of her for sure, even proposing marriage. Their two positions couldn’t be further apart, but there’s no compromise, Natsuo simply gets what he wants, again. 

While he may talk about caring about the future, it’s Hina who was looking out for both of them by suggesting they end things while they still can. Instead, they make out in front of an open window during a fireworks display, then have sex and apparently spend the night together.

These are not good decisions, as Hina learns on the first day back at school, when she’s summoned by the principal, who presents her a photo of her, and Natsuo, kissing by the open window, during the fireworks display.

She and Natsuo were so caught up in being together that they got sloppy, never stopping to think how others (who weren’t Rui) mind think and feel about them together. In the school’s case, it’s likely a fireable offense, and certainly a black mark on its reputation. Suffice it to say Hina is well and truly fucked.

Darling in the FranXX – 07

After last week’s epic battle, the 13th gets some well-deserved R&R on a real beach, which makes this a respite episode and a beach episode. It’s a good time to let us spend more time with the pilots as they interact in non-life-or-death situations for once.

The other big news is that 002 and Hiro are officially partners and Zero Two is now a member of the 13th. The higher-ups pulling the strings assign extra surveillance to her and seem to want Hiro to safely “deliver” her somewhere specific. Hiro also meets a fellow young man who’ll be the one doing the surveillance.

But for now, splashing and floating in the ocean are the order of the day, and the male gaze is in full force, with even a “goody-two-shoes” like Gorou thanking the powers that be for such a wonderful experience.

Hiro got to meet Dr. Franxx, who warns him not to let 002 “consume his emotions” if he wants to always be her partner. That is obviously a challenge, since Two is extremely flirty whenever around her Darling, even leaning in for what Hiro thinks is another kiss before she licks his cheek.

Zorome, Goro and Futoshi are in the dark about what all this “kissing” is about, and when Hiro grudgingly describes it and how it feels, Zorome is so eager to experience it for himself he tries to kiss Hiro. Mitsuru and Ikuno don’t participate in the other girls’ and boys’ fun, but Ikuno also makes it clear that doesn’t make them alike.

Then Mitsuru finds a path and leads everyone through it, and they find an abandoned ghost town not unlike the one they appear in during the typical end credits (we get a girls-in-swimsuits sequence this week).

It’s a place that’s gorgeous in its decay, where nature is taking over what was once civilization. Kokoro finds a book on child-rearing, something I’m sure is not done anywhere near the way we know about in our world, considering the ignorance of the parasites—or maybe it is, but since it has nothing to do with their duty to protect humanity, they were never taught about it.

002 tries to tease Ichigo about the fact that she’s kissed Hiro, but Ichigo mostly stands her ground without revealing she kissed him too. In any case, she’s far from ready to surrender Hiro to Two.

After enjoying a lovely sunset on an outcropping, the squad returns to the beach to find a sumptuous barbeque awaiting them. There, Ichigo and the others officially welcome Hiro to the 13th. They welcome 002 as well, but she runs off to swim some more, and seems miffed her Darling did not follow her.

That night, Ichigo gets some much-needed alone time with Hiro as they both wake up in the middle of the night and take a nice starlit stroll along the beach. Seeing Ichigo step into each of Hiro’s steps ahead of her was a really adorable move on her part, and she has a lot of nice closeups of just how much she’s enjoying being with Hiro and Hiro alone.

Ichigo eloquently expresses her feelings, from telling him not to give “all his attention” to 002 “look at her too”, to how much their kiss meant and her desire to be with him forever. She’s relieved Hiro still remembers the “Ichigo Star” in Orion he once pointed out to her.

Unfortunately, Hiro interrupts her, but it’s because a shower of shooting stars breaks out, further adding to the magic of the evening. Ichigo sees them as a good omen; the light they give off looking to her like rays of hope. Rather than repeat herself to Hiro, she playfully calls him baka for not listening when he had the chance. As exotic and alluring as 002 is, Ichigo shows no signs of relinquishing her Best Girl status.

Classroom of the Elite – 07

As soon as it was clear this was not only a pool episode, but an underlying operation by the guys to peep on the girls in their changing room (immediately), I sat back and settled in for what I imagined would be a pleasant but lightweight episode, “7” stamp in my hand, ready to strike.

But hidden among all the usual pool episode fanservice cliches and peeping scheme antics, this episode turned out to be something I didn’t know it was until the end, and felt silly for not realizing it. At the same time, it ever-so-gently nudged a character towards a slightly more normal human high school life.

If this episode were a sandwich, the insides would be pretty monotonous, while the bread, particularly the bottom slice, would be where the true action is. Yet the middle part—let’s call it egg salad for the purposes of this metaphor—was nevertheless crucial in setting up the twist at the end.

Clues are everywhere as to what kind of phone conversation went on between Horikita and Ayanokouji that led to her joining him, the three bad apples (including Sudo), Ichinose, Kushida, and Sakura at a lovely Summer day at the pool, rather than her usual day composed solely of study, eating, and sleeping.

‘Leisure” and “friends” are a waste of time and energy for Horikita, so what is she doing here? Nah. Merely humoring Ayano and the others? Worried he and Kushida (or Sakura, or Ichinose) will get too close if she’s not there? Nope.

Once the ridiculously overwrought and over-dramatic peeping scheme is in dire jeopardy, and Ayano asks Horikita to climb the highest diving board and deliver a stirring speech that gets the nod from her Class D colleagues but rankles the other classes, it should be clear she’s not in on the peeping scheme either…and neither is Ayanokouji.

Rather, Ayano, AKA Argos-4, served as a double agent, knowing the other guys would go through with the scheme even if he protested or failed to participate; better to let them think he’s on their side and let them fail all on their own. But the consequences of failure would spread to all of Class D, so Ayano appealed to Horikita’s pride and desire to reach Class A, and help him neutralize one more obstacle to that goal.

She does, swiping all of the SD cards from the cameras set up in the changing room, and thus while the guys’ scheme failed, Ayano’s succeeds. Getting to see Horikita in a bikini, and having her hang out with people who would be her friends if she just let them, is pretty much just a bonus for Ayano. He dunks Horikita, but when reaching out to pull her out, she pulls him in with her…as “payback” (Sakura also tries and fails—quite hilariously—to join in the fun).

Back home and in her usual routine, Horikita gets a text from Ayano: a photo of him and her with the others at the pool; a memory of a fun time. Horikita collapses on the bed, maintaining that being alone is “easier”, but does she truly want everything to be easy? Doesn’t a challenge make one’s results more satisfying?

Classroom of the Elite let its hair down a little this week, but it deserves kudos for taking the tired pool episode and peeping scheme premises and adapting them to the specific thrust of the show: Horikita and Ayano keeping Class D above water as part of the greater goal to get promoted to Class A. It also allowed Horikita to loosen up ever so slightly, while perpetuating the complex relationship between her and the still very mysterious Ayano. A win on all fronts.

Koi to Uso – 06

Whoa, hold on, what are Yukari and Ririna doing, making out in bed? Oh, it’s just Ririna’s first sexy dream about Yukari. Little did she—or I—know that by episode’s end that dream would become shockingly close to reality.

This is due to a combination of factors, including a genuine growing affection for one another as they get to know each other better, the scientific process by which they were chosen to marry one another, and oh yeah, a ruthless alternate-universe Japanese government that is NOT FUCKING AROUND when it comes to population growth.

Yes, this episode checks in momentarily with Misaki and Nisaka, and new characters are introduced in Ririna’s new friend Arisa and Yukari’s middle-school classmate Igarashi, but thankfully the focus is on the two people that aggressive government program determined should get hitched, get it on, and have at least 2 children.

To that end, everyone who recently got their notices are instructed to leave school early and report to…a hotel…uh-oh. The strangeness of the situation is definitely felt by our surrogates, Yukari and Ririna. He sees aa classmate with his “pre-Yukari way-out-of-his-league” future wife, and turns inward to wonder if people look at him and Ririna like he’s looking at them.

Then that very thing happens. Ririna arrives sporting a new hairstyle and the gift of a creepy figuring that Yukari loses his shit over. He has a gift for her two, and his classmate and future wife marvel at how well this system seems to pick people who clearly like each other.

Both Yukari and Ririna bristle at that, but as the afternoon progresses, The State systematically runs roughshod over whatever doubts and reservations the two may have. Indeed, Ririna, having only recently researched French kissing, is particularly uncomfortable with all the sex talk going on by the Ministry’s presenter, a True Believer in the Yukari System if ever there was one.

Condoms are passed out. The now-healthy birthrate is mentioned to tout the success of the system. Sex is healthily discussed in terms of its physiological and mental benefits, in addition to just feeling good. It’s gotta be a lot to take in for a bunch of 16-year-olds, and that is no accident on the part of the Ministry.

After concluding the lecture with a very informative porno that leaves Ririna shaking and Yukari desperate to keep Misaki out of his head, all of the husband-wife pairs are assigned hotel rooms and ordered to spend the night together. A random Ministry guy hinting (in jest) that they’ll be “watched” and an overheard rumor about consequences for “not banging” only hikes up the pressure.

Before they know it, Yukari and Ririna are alone in a tastefully lit, comfortable room, staring down a big bed. There are no chairs, as Ririna helpfully points out. Yukari is LOSING IT. He’s stuck in his head, and at least finally realizes it, but when he tries to think of what he can do for Ririna, what he comes up with mirrors the beginning of her dream in which they make out: he pins her to the bed. As she awaits the next move, the episode mercilessly (or mercifully) fades to black…

The Yukari Law was born out of necessity. Japan’s birthrate hovered around 1.46 births per woman in 2015. That’s just not good enough to make up for the people aging and dying. There’s no telling what the economic, social, and cultural consequences will be, but you can bet they’ll be bad. Robots aren’t the answer. People study and work too much to get by or get ahead. Family often takes a backseat to success. A lot of younger people just don’t want it.

These are the harsh realities that face the Japan here, in our world. And while it’s doubtful anything as comprehensively invasive as Yukari will ever be implemented, Koi to Uso still serves as a kind of thought experiment in which a relatively simple fix is applied: get people to make more babies. Simple in concept, but ridiculously complex and problem-fraught in execution.

Its exploration of that what-if scenario, with a focus on four youths going against the grain, is as unsettling as it is riveting.

Koi to Uso – 05

The potentially infamous Love Quadrangle Camping Trip from Hell is upon us, and things start out expectedly bumpy, with Ririna protesting Yukari’s choice to invite Nisaka along and Nisaka and Misaki exchanging looks that to us clearly look like two rivals in love, but to Yukari like they’re into each other.

Inevitably, Yukari ends up catching the girls playing in the river in their swimsuits, but neither accuses him of being a pervert. Indeed, Ririna thinks nothing of calling him over to play with them, only to twist her ankle and require he princess-carry her back to camp (since she considers piggyback to be too lewd).

Ririna is a bit of a tsundere for most of this trip where Yukari is concerned, but there’s a good reason for that: she’s increasingly unable to hold back her own feelings for Yukari for her good friend Misaki’s sake. Her face even blushes when she finds herself admiring Yukari as he talks so passionately about researching burial mounds.

Then there’s Nisaka, who Yukari has the exact wrong idea about. Nisaka isn’t into Misaki; he’s into Yukari. But despite having a golden opportunity to do so, Nisaka is unable to come out and confess this. But to be fair, this is a guy who likes guys in a society where guys are matched up with girls by the government and told in no uncertain terms (a la Adama) to “make babies.” Also he values his friendship with Yukari and doesn’t want to ruin it.

Despite the conflicting feelings floating around her head, Ririna is still committed to getting true lovers together as often as she can, even to the point of pairing herself with Nisaka, whom she has a very low opinion of, so Yukari and Misaki can be alone together.

Again, things turn out how one would expect: while chasing a firefly, Misaki slips and starts to fall down a hill. Yukari can’t catch her, but she grabs his arm and takes him down with her. They then spend a good long time on the ground, in each others’ arms, simply listening to their hearts pound against each other.

Nisaka is aware of Ririna’s gambit and straight-up questions what she hopes to get out of it. If Misaki and Yukari marry, it’s not like there’ll be some kind of ménage à trois situation, like the creator of Wonder Woman. Ririna could fall by the wayside…or would she?

And while we finally learn there are no overt criminal penalties, it’s made clear by Nisaka that those who reject their matches are marked for life, and will find it tougher to realize their futures. Nisaka minces no words in accusing Ririna of courting disaster. (I say if you’re as desperately in love as Misaki and Yukari seem to be, I’d say it’s worth it. You can’t put a price on happiness, be it fines or lost wages.)

But Ririna…just wants two people in love to be together. When the two pairs reunite and find the clearing where a cloud of fireflies pepper the night, she defiantly takes the hands of both Misaki and Yukari. Yukari then inadvertently twists her intention by taking Nisaka’s hand as well.

Whatever labels society wants to put on his relationships, Yukari just wants to exist in that beautiful place with people he likes. The camping trip ends with him still thinking Nisaka likes Misaki, but I’ll allow him his blissful ignorance a little longer. A new notice in the mail suggests this love quadrangle’s trials have only just begun.