Kuzu no Honkai – 04

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Whew…well that was a properly intense episode. In it, we finally enter the head of Minagawa Akane and find out what makes her tick and what she says gives her joy in life: being desired by men. She started back when she was in school, stealing away her best friend’s crush even though she didn’t even like the guy.

Indeed, she’s only interested in guys other girls desire; it’s how she gauges their value. It’s as if she only derides pleasure from her contact with men if she knows it’s pleasure being taken from other women; depriving them of it.

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Her latest victim is Hanabi, but what’s so insidious is that like her best friend’s crush, Akane wouldn’t even care about Kanai if Hanabi didn’t love him. Hanabi is unknowingly fueling her own despair by making it so clear to Akane that she’s into Onii-san. It makes Akane the villain – if you’re rooting for Hanabi. On the other hand, if you’re rooting for the one person who seems to be confident in what they’re doing, Akane’s your girl.

Akane believes it’s Hanabi’s own fault she’s in her predicament, but not because Hanabi has never gathered the stones to confess to Kanai, but because Hanabi should be on same side of this game. She kinda already is; Moca essentially feels for Mugi (whom Hanabi has) what Hanabi feels for Onii-san (whom Akane has). Akane’s become quite adept at taking full advantage of the situation, but Hanabi seems to lack the will.

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We’re then thrust out of Akane’s head and into Kanai’s for the first time, and while I didn’t quite fathom the scope of Akane’s true personality before it was unveiled to us, Kanai is pretty much what I expected.

Kanai is normal, boring, and enough of a romantic to throw caution to the wind when someone like Akane appears in his life, even though a part of him knows (and is correct that) she’s too good to be true.

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Demonstrating how experienced she is at this kind of thing, Akane executes a perfect reenactment of the way she hurt her friend when she separately tells both Kanai and Hanabi to be in the music room after school, then lets Kanai do the rest, confessing to an utterly disinterested Akane as Hanabi watches helplessly.

Akane’s eyes narrow and turn to see Hanabi, and then the episode fades to black in a spine-chilling close to Akane’s half of the episode. This show excels at many things, but it’s particularly good at transitioning from one “soliloquy” to another and keeping the flow moving. The fantastic score and cinematography pulls you into its dark soup of an atmosphere and makes it impossible to break free.

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And we’re only halfway through! Good lord, the first half felt like a complete, and amazing, episode. Thankfully, it isn’t all downhill from here. In fact, Akane’s actions drive those of Hanabi, the main POV of the second half. They drive her to finally emulate the one who hurt her.

I’m not talking about getting hot and heavy with Mugi again, to Moca’s dismay. Seeking comfort from Mugi wouldn’t be possible without telling him what she knows about Akane (the poor bastard). So she heads home alone, in tatters, then realizes she’s been followed…by Ecchan.

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Ecchan still wants Hanabi…very much so. So when Hanabi, in tatters, impulsively embraces Ecchan, then worries how it will feel to her, Ecchan assures her it’s all good. Hanabi this way is better than no Hanabi at all. Besides, Ecchan, makes no apologies for taking what she can when the opportunity arises, almost as payment for the pain Hanabi’s caused her to that point.

As they start having sex, Hanabi finds herself in an Onii-chan fantasy, but it’s soon broken by her waking senses making her see, smell, taste and touch Ecchan, and only Ecchan. Ecchan is ready to stop at any time, but Hanabi won’t tell her to, so she doesn’t. Ecchan wants Hanabi to be filled with her, and Hanabi lets her fill her void.

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The experience, however, leaves Hanabi cold and alone, walking home in the rain, with only her force ghost as company, taunting her for destroying a friendship, notifying her that she’s actively taken advantage of someone’s feelings for the first time, and congratulating her for being scum just like Akane.

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Her force ghost doesn’t tell her anything she doesn’t already know, it is her who is talking to her, after all. She’s having a conversation in her head, and the fact this part of her is mocking her means that she is no match whatsoever for Akane right now. But she wants to be a match, and she’s going to work towards it with everything she’s got. Dark shoujo.

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In one last scene, Hanabi confronts Akane openly about being loved by people she doesn’t even like, and how it can be so fun for her. Akane’s response? There is no greater feeling than being desired by men. Whether she likes them or not is irrelevant, as long as they’re liked, preferably loved, by someone.

It’s a “get with the program” kind of line; one suspects if Hanabi somehow fell out of love with Kanai there’d be nothing left of him to interest Akane. You can have it like i have it, she seems to be telling Hanabi, as long as you’re able to redirect your energies.

Indeed, Hanabi already started with Ecchan, but if she’s serious about wanting to be a match for Akane, she’s got her work cut out for her. And I’m not saying she should! Shit’s already pretty damn heavy. Everyone has their limits. She may just not be cut out for it.

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Kuzu no Honkai – 03

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Just as Moca has a legitimate reason for loving Mugi (they’ve known each other a long time), Ecchan has one as well: Hanabi saved her from being assaulted on the train. When she ends up sharing Hanabi’s bed, Ecchan isn’t planning to do anything, but she just can’t hold back, and takes a gamble…one that doesn’t work out.

Hanabi thinks Ecchan is pretty, and she clearly values her as a friend, but when things get physical…it just doesn’t feel right for Hanabi, and not just because Ecchan is a girl. There’s a heavy weight she feels from being the object of Ecchan’s desires, accompanied by an acute, paralyzing fear.

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We learn a little more about what sent Mugi head over heels in love with his tutor Akane; he had his cherry popped by a beautiful senpai who later dumps him and breaks his heart. There’s every indication the girl he was with treated their fling as just a fling: casual, secret, fun while it lasted. Then she moved on.

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We see this unfold in what turns out to be a sexy dream Mugi wakes up from with an erection, just when Hanabi sneaks into his room for some contact. He initially stops her from touching him, worried he won’t be able to stop if they cross that line, but Hanabi doesn’t want him to stop, so she continues.

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Just as he was once so inexperience with his first, Mugi no doubt sees a little of himself in Hanabi’s inexperience, but after she expresses a bit of smugness, she starts to tear up, because she’s realized something: what she gets from Mugi she can’t just get from anyone. She didn’t get it from Ecchan, whom she was too scared to touch. Mugi is different.

Then and there, he’s someone she can see falling in love with, even if he isn’t Onii-san. After all, if she came on to Onii-san, who’s to say he wouldn’t feel the same tense, uncomfortable weight she felt from Ecchan? This is Hanabi taking stock of what she has in Mugi and thinking about her best interests.

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Later that night Mugi and Hanabi go to a family restaurant for dinner, and who do they run into but Akane-senpai, with a young-looking guy who definitely isn’t her brother who is really into him. Talk about awkward. Akane tries to be friendly, but the guy drags her away, clearly eager to continue their evening unfettered by her “students.”

The next day, Mugi tells Hanabi he recognized the guy as another student she’s tutoring. It’s all too clear he was more than that. Hanabi can’t believe how blind love makes Mugi, and is frustrated they don’t see things like this the same way, to the point she worries they weren’t as close as she thought.

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But then she realizes of course they’re not that close, at least not yet: their relationship, such as it is, has only just begun, and both of them agreed at the start they’d see other people in each other. Seeing Akane out in public with a different guy threw that plan into chaos for Hanabi.

She decides what she’s feeling now is something approaching hatred for Akane, which isn’t allayed by their brief, uneasy encounter in the schoolyard. Hanabi asks Akane (still wearing the same clothes from last night) if that guy was her boyfriend; she said it was just a friend, and that they can talk about it later. Assuming neither of them want Onii-san to find out about them being with other guys, Hanabi contemplates her next move as Akane, her back turned to her, cracks a wry, knowing smile.

Kuzu continues to excel with its serious, weighty but deft internal drama (not of the melo- variety) and quietly steamy scenes of sensuality (one of which ends with the mundane practicality of having to wash dirty clothes). We’re with Hanabi and Mugi all the way as they endure and explore their pain and pleasure; their playfulness and despair; their confusion and their revelations.

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Kuzu no Honkai – 02

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Just as Hanabi and Mugi are getting acclimated as a kinda-sorta-couple, Kuzu no Honkai throws a couple of wrenches into the works: namely, alternate love interests for both of them in the persons of Ecchan (Hanabi’s only female friend) and Moca (Mugi’s childhood friend).

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Hanabi makes it clear to Moca that Mugi is hers and she isn’t into sharing. Possessive or not, it’s logical for her to suggest Mugi gently reject Moca, but because both of them are in situations of unrequited love, it’s also not strange to see him hesitating.

That being said, there are already signs that Hanabi sees Mugi as more than just an onii-chan replacement; she even calls him Mugi when he starts to make out with her. The rules of their “arrangement” are being bent this quickly, what hope to they have of not falling for each other?

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Hanabi never having the slightest opening with onii-chan, nor Mugi with Akane, certainly makes being a couple together more mutually comforting. Mugi is starting to feel like a boyfriend, and she doesn’t hate that.

When she interacts with other girls who ask her for love advice, they seem to be simply playing around, compared to what she and Mugi are up against. They laugh off her talk of liking someone so much it hurts, so she can’t take them seriously from that point on.

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Hanabi decides she wants a girls-only night with her only friend Ecchan; little does she know Ecchan is harboring a crush on her; one we see her acting on despite herself as the night fast-forwards to Ecchan kissing Hanabi in bed. As if things weren’t already complicated enough, eh…

Kuzu no Honkai continues to be a moody, intriguing drama, wading into the murky swamp of infatuation and longing, and punctuated by sudden moments of intimate contact. Moca seems like she belongs in a different show so far, but Ecchan is more promising, if for no other reason than she completely blindsides Hanabi.

As Kuzu nears Nagi no Asukara levels of love polygonage in just its second episode, I’m curious to see how those pursuing their own one-sided loves deal with others pursuing them.

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Kuzu no Honkai – 01 (First Impressions)

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It’s not what it looks like…

The Gist: Yasuraoka Hanabi is and has always been in love with the older Kanai Narumi, who she calls onii-san. Awaya Mugi has always loved his middle school tutor, Minagawa Akane. Now both Kanai and Akane are teachers at Hanabi and Mugi’s school, and they are into each other.

Brought together by their similar situations, Hanabi and Mugi grow closer, nearly sleeping together, then enter a pact to soothe each other’s loneliness, becoming, in effect, replacements for the ones they truly love.

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This show isn’t entirely humorless

Whoa. Move over Masamune-kunKuzu no Honkai is the best Winter ’17 romance I’ve yet seen. It certainly has the strongest opening episode, which cuts to the freaking chase with immense alacrity.

And while it centers on the girl Hanabi (voiced by Anzai Chika, Reina from Euph as well as Chaika) and her thoughts, what drew me to KnH is how it tosses the usual girl-pursues a boy and boy-pursues-girl scenarios out the window.

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Look at those lovebirds down there…disgusting!

It also makes them equal actors with equal agency. In the face of the utter despair that comes from not being chosen by the the ones they deem their soul mates (and watching them flirt with each other every day at school), Hanabi and Mugi act to change their conditions, and make their miserable lives just a little more bearable.

In the episode’s powerful central act, Hanabi and Mugi are hanging out in his room as they always do, acting something like friends, in a dark and gloomy room. They’ve done this many times, but this time Hanabi feels compelled to reach out and embrace Mugi from behind. Mugi suggests she not see him as himself, but to imagine he’s actually Kanai.

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This is what they’ve wanted for a long time…but not from each other

Things get quite a bit steamier (without the deed being done, mind you) as Hanabi allows Mugi to be a vessel that contains her ideal version of Kanai doing these things with and to her, and she’s very conscious of how Mugi is no doubt seeing her as his beloved Akane. It’s so raw and sad, but it does soothe both parties, so it’s not a total waste of time.

When she was much younger, Kanai told Hanabi “we both have something the other is jealous of”, referring to her mother, a great cook, and his father; Hanabi’s never known hers. He then says they’ll be able to “help each other when we’re feeling lonely.” Hanabi took it as the God’s truth, but Kanai let her down, and came off as a liar.

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If we’re going to do this, then let’s DO this!

Mind you, that didn’t break the powerful spell he’s always had on her, and so here Hanabi and Mugi are, deciding that they’ll be the ones to help each other when they’re lonely, because they both have the exact same thing: someone who may never return their burning feelings. They agree to let each other have everything but their feelings, and if one of them makes it with the one they actually love, their pact will end.

Yeesh. That’s some dark, depressing stuff, but also not outside the realm of reality. While the formula is common, I personally haven’t seen this specific premise crop up much. It’s so simple, yet powerful, and like I said, it’s great that the girl and guy are equal partners. One hopes they’ll eventually fall for each other, because their other prospects don’t look so good, but who knows…that’s why we watch!

The show also has welcome moments of levity that don’t come off as tacked on, even though they sometimes surprise. And while its palette is a little on the drab side most of the time, that fits the desired atmosphere, and the animation is superb. If you’re up for some really well done seinen romantic drama, check this kuzu out.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 12

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And so Kiss Him Not Me comes to an end, with the ending pretty much in the title all along. Mutsumi’s sudden realization of his romantic feelings for Kae make her other four suitors scramble to keep him away from her, but he eventually outsmarts them with a P.A. announcement calling Kae to the school roof.

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Mu, however, does not discourage the others from joining him on that roof and letting their feelings be known. With everyone saying they like her, clearly, and asking if she’ll go out with them, the onus is on her to choose.

Kae flees to A-chan with her predicament; A-chan is understandably frustrated with Kae putting everything in fujoshi terms, but the solution they come up with is for Kae to do things dating-sim-style. The scene is another hint that Kae simply isn’t ready for a 3D romantic relationship.

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She goes on dates with each of the suitors, and has a wonderful time with each of them, as each of their charms are laid bare before her. But it doesn’t make it any easier to choose among them; indeed, it only make the choice harder and more confusing.

All five are great, they’re just lacking that special something that would compel her to choose one over the others. Which is why, in the end, she chooses no one. The status quo prior to their confessions is the situation at the end, for Kae doesn’t “love” any of them the way she loves Shion, who may be resurrected in a new season of his anime.

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So there you have it. Kae has never subscribed to the notion that the princess belongs with the prince, or even that the princess belongs with another princess. She’s all about 5×7, tops, bottoms, and lords. Furthermore, she lives a full and happy life not with a boyfriend or girlfriend, but with her sixteen waifus.

“Sorry, that’s how it is,” she says to her shocked, former suitors. And I can’t really feel that bad for them. They’re all still friends, both with her and with each other. Hopefully they can get over the fact she’s not the kind of girl who’d date them, and never was.

It’s a fitting end to a satisfying, if not perfect show that centered on a genuine ‘unconventional’ girl (whatever that means) who may be a bit naive when it comes to romance, but in the end knows what she wants and what she loves, and isn’t about to conform.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 11

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Mu’s ill-advised attempt to convince his brother that Kae was already his girlfriend is undermined by everyone else, and only ends up emboldening Kazuma, who now knows that all of them are into Kae, and he’s only too happy to throw his hat in the ring.

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One by one, the group falls before Kazuma, who uses tactics that exploit the weaknesses of each person, be it Shi’s skittishness, Nana and Iga’s reputations, or Shina’s first doujinshi.

It feels a little Wile E. Coyote, in that each character gives up after one attempt to thwart Kazuma, but the point is that only one person can stop him, and he can only stop him by shedding the “meek little brother” act of always conceding everything to him.

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Kazuma is the way he is because Mu always gave him what he wanted. But as he demonstrates in the obscure Sengoku era-themed card game duel, Mu is not willing to cede ground to his brother. He cares too much about Kae.

In an amusing, if not particularly thrilling card duel (during which the gathered crowd and everyone but Kae constantly mention they have no idea what’s going on) Mu executes a just-barely-legal, gutsy move Kazuma did not expect, defeating him by all means at his disposal.

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Mu’s newfound intensity and confidence gets through to Kazuma, who accepts defeat graciously; not something I thought would happen after he locked and taped Mu in a locker just a couple days before. But Kazuma is happy Mu finally stood up for himself.

The group is happy Mu won…right up until the moment he capitalized on his victory by confessing his feelings to Kae, who seems to react positively. That naturally puts the others on edge, as with Kazuma (probably, hopefully) out of the picture, Mu is now back to being their rival for Kae’s heart. Even though she’s content to have sixteen fictional waifus.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 10

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This week marks another single guy-centric episode, but like Shinomiya’s, instead of the same Mutsumi we’ve gotten week-to-week, we get an overdone charicature, only not quite as overdone as the klutzy Shi. Combined with a somewhat lame first half involving a cave adventure that turns out to be pointless and a disaster of a second half, this was Kiss Him Not Me’s worst outing.

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The adventure is stale, and while the idea of Mutsumi not knowing whether he romantically likes Kae (like the others) is interesting, Mutsumi has always been the kind but rather dull one, and having him carry an episode, even half of one, just doesn’t do it for me.

Nor does his sudden intense fear of darkness, which is not much more than an excuse for Kae to take his hand and lead him through the cave. This is a guy who stripped both himself and Kae down to warm up her underheated body. It makes zero sense for him to be so flustered about holding Kae’s hand now.

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Things only get worse when Mutsumi’s older, creepier brother shows up as a student teacher. Setting aside the fact that his bisexualism (if it’s really even genuine) is handled about as seriously as a show like this could be expected to handle it; this guy straight up tells underage kids he could totally sleep with any one of them. That’s a fireable offense at best.

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Not only that, he takes an interest in Kae, to the point he invites her to lunch after running into her in Shinjuku (despite her clearly being uncomfortable with the idea), then takes advantage when he has to catch Kae from falling to make a move on her. Mutsumi is able to stop him before anything happens, but the look on Kae’s face is all you need to know to determine that this guy’s a sketchy creep, and I’m not sure how else we’re supposed to see him.

That he intends to “bide his time” until he’s no longer teaching there to “pursue” Kae (without any input from her about what she’d think about such a pursuit) doesn’t make him any less detestable. Even if he’s only putting on an extra-skeevy act to try to motivate Mutsumi to ask Kae out, it doesn’t change the fact he’s being totally inappropriate with a student.

I can forgive this show’s dancing around the whole weight thing, but not this. The fact is, the show just isn’t that funny right now, and that’s a problem.

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Flying Witch – 11

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Flying Witch goes big with the magic this week, and Makoto, Akane, and Chinatsu have a…ahem…whale of a time. An ethereal postman delivers the newspaper for the witching world, and news comes that a whale will be flying over Aomori soon. The girls fly out on their brooms early in the morning to try to spot it. And flying witches on Flying Witch are always welcome!

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The massive stone whale is also a Laputa-esque flying island covered in gardens and fish pools, and extensive ruins, and when the girls gain access to the “flight deck” they find Shiina Anzu, budding archaeologist, already there exploring.

There’s a palpable sense of awe and grandeur to the big flying whale, and the segment owes much to films like Castle in the Sky, but with FW’s own easygoing atmosphere. Yes, this is a big deal, and everyone’s stoked about being on this whale, but there’s no possibility of harm or of anything sinister happening.

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Despite being abandoned long ago, the whale is a bringer of joy and wonder to everyone’s hearts. But the girls can’t just stay up there forever; for one thing, stomachs are starting to growl. So they say goodbye to their new giant flying friend and head to Casa Kuramoto for the newest installment of Kei’s Cooking Corner. Anzu joins Makoto, Akane and Chinatsu, and gets to see her anthropology mentor, the wise and well-traveled Kenny.

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From flying on brooms to exploring floating whale ruins to conversing with cats, this episode gave me my magical fix, so the addition of some down-home hotcake-making and eating was the icing on the cake, as was the arrival of Anzu’s owl familiar with a lengthy bill for Akane from Anzu’s Mom’s cafe. Better scrounge together some cash to pay that, big sis!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try Kei’s method of layering batter to make thicker hotcakes. It’s such a simple technique I feel pretty dumb for never thinking to augment my frisbee-thin pancakes…

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Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta? – 06

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This is probably my last Netoge review. It’s not unwatchable, and there’s a certain charm about it that draws you in, but it’s so safe, and formulaic, and devoid of interpersonal conflict and stakes. I’m not saying I need conflict in my rom-coms, but it does spice things up, and its absence in Netoge is impossible to overlook. Cute character designs, in this case, aren’t enough to sustain my interest.

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Netoge doesn’t do itself any favors in its latest outing, which, Ako studying and passing her exams aside, is all about one thing: Nishimura properly confessing to Ako. He spends the whole episode worried about how and when to do it, completely oblivious to the fact a girl like Ako would naturally reject an offer to be his girlfriend, because she already considers herself his wife, both on- and offline.

It would be one thing if Nishimura/Rusian actually had to lift a finger for Ako’s affections, or if Segawa or Kyou took exception to that finger-lifting because they harbored feelings for him. But he’s already got the girl. She’s presented herself nude for him, for crying out loud! All he has left to do is come to terms with the fact he has her, and in the process learn more about her…if there is anyting else to learn, that is.

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I’m sorry, but watching the interminable process of this particular lug hesitating at the finish line just doesn’t sound appealing. The other two female leads playing game matchmakers from the sidelines only serve to make things even easier for him, making it that much more frustrating that he’s not able to seal the deal. It also makes the intense love Ako has for him feel unearned; shallow, even.

Sorry Netoge, but this isn’t working, and the promise of a beach episode isn’t enough to change my mind: I’m announcing a summary divorce!

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My Hero Academia – 06

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Plus Ultra to you on this fine Mother’s Day (USA)! I shall be covering Hero this week in Hannah’s place. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu! After Midoriya successfully gets a hero-like number on the ball throw, a furious Kacchan rushes him before being stopped by Aizawa-sensei.

Kacchan of all people simply can’t understand how his childhood friend could have a quirk all of a sudden, and the ‘my own effort’ explanation he gets from Iida second-hand isn’t satisfactory. Deku is pissing all over his moment, and he doesn’t like it! Boo-hoo.

Despite placing last in total test points, Midoriya moves on, because as Aizawa says to All Might, his potential is “not zero”. Midoriya settles into a cozy group of budding friends in the earnest-to-a-fault Iida and the adorable, friendly Ochako, who re-purposes the insulting nickname “Deku-kun” to something cool, because it reminds her of “Ganbatte”.

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Once the class starts hero training with their new teacher All Might (whom almost everyone is in awe of), he unveils that the superhero costumes they requested are ready. Due to various clerical hiccups, Midoriya gets his by another channel – his adorable mom saw the design in his notebook and had it made in secret, as an apology for giving up on him when he never did.

The new costumes really give a sense of pomp and occasion to this upcoming test that the PE uniforms lacked. It also makes everyone far more distinctive and reveals some things about their tastes and personalities. Class ace Yaoyorozu, for instance, isn’t afraid to show a little sideboob, while Ochako didn’t put in any preference and ended up in a tasteful skintight jumpsuit that, if anything, only amplifies her cuteness.

(Speaking of big groups of superheroes taking the stage: I’d just caught Captain America: Civil War Friday night, one of the climactic scenes of which was also bursting with cool costumes.)

As for “Deku’s” suit, it borrows a few details from All Might but has a totally different vibe to it; more Sonic the Hedgehog than Superman; I like it. I’m not as big a fan as Iida’s rather boring suit of armor or Kacchan’s tacky suit that makes him look like a fireworks point-of-purchase. Still, it’s clear from many outfits that they started out as crude pencil sketches.

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The next exercise involves two pairs of students facing off as heroes and villains, with the former having to either capture the latter or the latter keeping their nuke out of the former’s hands. Deku and Ochako are paired up again, to Ochako’s delight.

In the dark, close confines of the test building, Kacchan again breaks the rules to take it to Deku by staging a surprise attack…only to find Deku a far more challenging opponent than he expected, and not because of Deku’s strength, either.

The hero notebook Deku meticulously prepared included notes on his childhood friend, so Deku knows how he fights and how to fight back. This fight should be interesting, assuming Deku doesn’t slip up and get char-broiled before Ochako can step in with her zero-grav assistance.

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Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta? – 05

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Turns out Sette-san isn’t Nishimura’s sister, but his pink-haired classmate (and friend of Segawa’s), Akiyama. She teases both him and Ako by glomming on him in class, but she causes a lot more trouble than she expected, as she creates an environment Ako no longer feels comfortable in. She even suggests the club play an FPS unrelated to LA, likely to avoid Akiyama/Sette.

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Ako then recedes again from school life, vowing only to live in LA, where she knows Rusian is his wife, if nowhere else. At long last, Nishimura’s wishy-washiness and failure to clearly define his real world relationship with Ako has been laid bare, and this is the sum product: an Ako more reclusive than ever, who wishes to “reincarnate” into someone cooler.

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The club pretty easily figures out that Ako herself is caught up in a spiral of stubbornness and a desire not to lose further face, and that Nishimura is the only one who has a shot to bring her back to school. While walking home with Segawa, she relays to him how important he was to Ako, both in the game and in her life, and how she, like Ako, wouldn’t mind spending a good long time with Nishimura…gaming, of course. Just gaming. As usual, Segawa fools precisely no one but the guy she’s trying to pretend she doesn’t like.

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When he arrives at Ako’s house, Nishimura is confronted by Ako’s mom, who looks more like an equally attractive older sister and is delighted that Ako’s “future husband” has come to sort her “problem daughter” out. She then shuffles off to work, leaving him with the key to Ako’s room, of all things.

When he enters, Ako isn’t ready for him, being in her underwear and all. When she tells him she is ready and he can come in, she’s totally naked, revealing her and Nishimura’s definitions of “ready” in this instance differ greatly. She eventually gets some damn clothes on, however, and to her surprise, Nishimura isn’t there to drag her back to school; he’s just there to play LA with her.

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After a day of this, during which they were supposed to be at school, Nishimura essentially proposes mutually assured destruction: if Ako can stay home forever and never go to school or see any of their friends, so can he, and whatever fallout there is from that, so be it.

While I kinda doubt Nishimura’s parents would allow him to ruin his chances of getting into college or securing a good job, Ako is touched by Rusian’s devotion. The knowledge that he’d stay home with her forever if that’s what she eventually decided gives her the strength to tough it out at school with him.

Once she’s there, Akiyama mends fences by proclaiming to Ako’s peers that she has a dutiful boyfriend who visited her when she wasn’t feeling well. That’s a narrative Ako can get behind. Do I buy that it’s enough to mitigate all her other mental and social issues? Not really. Is Nishimura now Ako’s explicitly public boyfriend? No. Is that fundamental ambiguity a problem going forward? Certainly.

Furthermore, the last few episodes have felt like slightly-tweaked versions of the same story, beginning and ending in virtually the same space. Characters can talk about Ako “progressing”, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

And everyone’s too…nice. This is high school, where are the “normie” antagonists? Those issues, combined with its Thursday night time slot (my movie night) and lackluster production values, are making this a hard show to stick with.

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My Hero Academia – 05

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There’s an exciting auspicious energy to the dawn before Midoriya’s first day at UA High (bolstered by the show’s sick epic hero rock soundtrack), and All Might reassures him that in time he’ll be able to control One for All, even thought it may not happen overnight.

He gets more emotional support from his proud-as-punch mom (who is the cutest mom), from Iida, a former naysayer he won over in the exam, and “nice girl” Ochako, who is also glad to be in class with the “plain-looking” Midoriya.

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But as is usually the case for Midoriya and shounen like him throughout anime history, what awaits him once he’s finally over the mountain…is another mountain. His homeroom teacher is Aizawa Shouta, a listless but no-nonsense hero who works in the shadows; pretty much the anti-All Might. He believes his students have no time for opening ceremonies or afterschool trips to McDonalds.

They’re here to be heroes, and that means finding their maximum as soon as possible so that they can determine what they can and can’t do. Midoriya is in the unenviable position of having just received his quirk, and so far only used it at either 0% or 100%. He has to get through eight physical tests (the same ones all Japanese students take, only use of quirks is permitted) and not end up last, lest he get expelled on the first day.

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Aizawa’s perspective is no harsher or unfairer than reality, in which a villain or disaster can strike at any time, and won’t wait for you to master your quirk. You’ve gotta be ready yesterday for what could happen today. Fortunately, being pushed into a corner, Midoriya remembers all the supportive words of his allies, and manages to get through the tests by minimizing the damage done by One For All, localizing its power in his finger while throwing a ball.

With that throw, which leaves Midoriya down a finger but otherwise in fine shape, he proves to Aizawa that he does have potential; and that UA High is the perfect venue to cultivate and realize that potential. We also learned that Bakugo still things something underhanded happened to get Deku enrolled, while we were introduced to the powers of some of Midoriya’s many classmates. All in all, a serviceable, if somewhat sparse, introduction to his hero academia.

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Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta? – 04

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There were three main story thrusts this week: Segawa’s attempts to keep her “twisted” net game-playing second life a secret; Nishimura’s insistence on drawing semantic boundaries in his relationship with an ever-increasingly enthusiastic Ako; and the introduction of Sette, who immediately threatens to rend the married couple asunder.

The first two stories are re-treads of what we’ve already seen: Segawa isn’t ready to be totally exposed for the gamer she is, even as she fails to realize all the effort and stress she’s exerting is to perpetuate a lie, and not even a necessary one.

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This doesn’t seem to be that hostile a school environment, socially speaking, and Nishimura is proof you can be openly otaku without becoming a pariah.

Segawa’s issue is that she doesn’t want to be viewed for what she really is, but rather some obscure ideal she must have consumed somewhere. The “perfect high school life” she seeks will always be a mirage as long as she’s mired in efforts to maintain a false identity.

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Also a bit of a re-tread, with little progress one way or another, is Nishimura’s careful dance with Ako. In spite of his mates having a good idea what his hobbies are, like Segawa he’s trying to have his normal life cake and eat it too; project an image of someone at least more normal than Ako.

And while he’s clearly uncomfortable with anyone mistaking Ako for his girlfriend or wife, the reality is he’s become very close to this person. I had thought they’d reached more of an understanding, but Nishimura’s discomfort and awkwardness in the fact of any advance by Ako…it’s all a bit dilatory.

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Ako doesn’t help matters by overreacting to every interaction Nishimura has with the opposite sex. It was Nekohime/his teacher last week, and Segawa’s friend Akiyama this week.

But Sette looks to be the first true threat she should actually worry about, but not because the newbie is in danger of usurping her role as Rusian’s wife, but seems more like and admiring imouto.  Heck, Sette could well be Nishimura’s real-life sister for all I know.

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