Tsuki ga Kirei – 07

It ain’t just the game of thrones—in the game of love, you win or you die…romantically speaking. It’s take no prisoners; shit or get off the pot; even moreso when you’re young and just figuring this stuff out.

With the Dome City amusement park as the setting for this outstanding episode, Akane, Kotarou, Chinatsu and Hira all learn harsh lessons about the game they’re all playing, the risks and rewards of being passive or active, and how being on the winning side can be fleeting. It’s a side that must be defended.

I honestly can’t stop snickering at Kotarou’s face while on the roller coaster. That is the face of someone very unhappy he didn’t decline Chinatsu’s suggestion they sit together. He might as well be shouting over the roar of the coaster ‘I’VE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE!’

Because he’s next to Chinatsu, Akane is next to Hira, and because she doesn’t handle coasters so hot, it’s Hira, not Chinatsu, who serves as her support during and after the ride. It doesn’t help Kotarou that the majority of the rest of the group is shipping Akane and Hira (except Roman, who we learn has had his suspicions about Kotarou and Akane before Kotarou confirms it).

Kotarou and Akane simply start out the trip all wrong, due to their general passivity in a scenario that requires activity. Akane ends up with Hira a lot of the time, but did nothing to prevent it; Kotarou ends up with a super-aggressive Chinatsu, who understands she’s got to hustle to have any chance over Akane…and may even be moving so fast and forcefully because she already knows she has no chance.

In either case, after Kotarou sees Akane with Hira, Akane sees Kotarou with Chinatsu, and after some time passes, Kotarou sees Akane with Hira AGAIN, Kotarou has finally had it; he’s groaned his last ineffectual groan. Time for some muthafuckin’ ACTION!

He calls out to Akane, then tells Hira he’s in a relationship with her, which she backs up. He then takes her by the hand and they walk off, just in time for Chinatsu to spot them together. As her tears start to fall on the souvenir photo of her and Kotarou on the coaster, I can’t help but feel for her. She got off to a good start, but ends up running out of steam.

After a great series of reactions from the group after Roman confirms Kotarou and Akane are going out (which NO one else saw coming), the happy new couple finally has their precious time alone. What had felt like such a delicate bond strengthens with each activity they do together.

I appreciate how they mirrored my own glee over the whole situation with lots of beaming and giddy laughter, neither of them able to contain their elation at being able to hang out together.

After eating together for the first time, going on various rides and to a haunted house, the two close in closer and closer for a couple selfie, and their bubbly contentment only intensifies when they see how much like a couple they look in the photo.

Meanwhile, Chinatsu returns to the group, her eyes raw from crying, and her girl-friends get the bad news that Kotarou chose Akane over her. Chinatsu might’ve stolen Akane for the coaster and gotten temporarily “lost” with him, Akane ends up stealing him back, though mostly thanks to Kotarou taking action.

No matter; it’s the action Akane wanted to be taken. She’ll be the proactive one next time. As the fireworks explode across the night sky, Kotarou takes her hands in his and leans in for a kiss, and Akane leans in right back.

A nosy little shrimp interrupts them (where are your damn parents, kid?), but they get so goshdarned close to kissing, I’m going to go ahead and call it a kiss, even if it isn’t officially their first kiss. Neither of them bailed out; it was a matter of being surprised by an outside stimulus. Close enough, I say!

Chinatsu…she was never that close, because Kotarou simply isn’t interested in her the way he is in Akane, just as Akane isn’t into Hira that way. At the end of the night, Akane and Kotarou are exactly where they should be, where they want to be.

hen Chinatsu texts Akane that she couldn’t confess, Akane says “Sorry” to herself. I’ve no doubt she feels bad about Chinatsu getting hurt. Chinatsu was the one who chose to keep going even though she knew Akane was with Kotarou, but Akane could have been more forceful in discouraging her.

But at the end of the day, when made to choose between her happiness and Chinatsu’s, there is no choice. It’s shitty not being the one chosen, but that’s life. Akane and Kotarou won the game today. They deserved to savor their victory. Here’s hoping the wins keep coming. They must be vigilant.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 06

Uh-oh…the dreaded Pinky Promise, long the bane of many a budding middle school relationship. Tsuki ga Kire’s couple makes theirs after Kotarou gets a call from a publisher in the city and Akane prepares for her big meet, and the two are determined to achieve their dreams.

No matter how much Kotarou’s mom worries about his future, or how much Akane’s family gawks at her upon figuring out she’s dating someone, they like having each other around, supporting each other both in person and on LINE.

Both are drawing strength and ever-so-gradually becoming bolder, braver people, as demonstrated when Akane texted Kotarou that she wanted to discuss something with him (namely, the Chinatsu situation). But they’re in such high spirits after the pinky promise, Akane leaves it for another day…The worst possible day she could leave it for, the day of the big track meet.

She manages to get out to Chinatsu that she’s already in a relationship with Kotarou, which is good, but the timing couldn’t be worse in terms of the emotional toll it takes on her. Chinatsu, for her part, already knew—they’re friends, after all—but when the time comes to race, Akane is so weighted down by complex, conflicting emotions, she ends up with a terrible time and is eliminated, while Chinatsu has a personal best and advances. Ouch.

Akane isn’t the only one to take an L, mind you: when Kotarou sneaks out to make the long trip to the publisher, he’s full of cautious optimism, determined to fulfill his promise to Akane and to himself, eager to take the first step towards joining the ranks of his beloved highbrow authors…only to be crushed like a bug under a different weight than the one that slowed Akane: literary reality.

The publisher minces no words: Kotarou is not cut out for the kind of literature he attempted and submitted, but he may just have a knack for “light novel type stuff”, which Kotarou is clearly not into.

So after pumping each other up so much and pounding the pavement with confidence and gusto, secure in knowing the other is trying their best right beside them, Akane and Kotarou end up having the worst day. And I’ll tell you, I felt every ounce of their combined…er…worstitude; I really did.

I felt Akane’s exasperation over her best friend’s crush on Kotarou, which just so happens to be mercilessly translated into a literal footrace with her friend-and-now-rival. I felt Kotarou’s crushing disappointment that his odyssey to the city was all for naught.

And I definitely felt the both of them not feeling the slightest bit better once they return to their homes. Akane’s parents are warm enough and tell her there’ll be other races, while her sister tells her it’s going to be very hard to remain friends with someone still actively after her boyfriend.

Kotarou’s mom lets him have it as soon as he comes in the door, telling him no good will come of the thing he’s most passionate about doing (though is dad is more sympathetic). Dayum.

Sometimes family helps you recharge and heal from the stress and wounds of the world out there, but sometimes they contribute to it. Which is why I was so glad that after so much mutual moping about, in the middle of the night, by the light of her phone, Akane finally gets a message on a screen still mockingly displaying the optimism they expressed before the day began.

Just three simple words: I miss you. Akane only needs two: Me too. The two meet up in the library the next morning, cheered a little by their mere presence, and cheered more by their shared determination not to give up on track or writing, to work even harder so awful days like yesterday won’t become a common occurrence. They reaffirm their still-active pinky promise, to which they wisely did not assign a deadline.

And yet their struggles are far from over. When Akane meets with Chinatsu on a beautiful tree-wreathed path bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun, there’s a friendly, conciliatory mood to the proceedings: Akane apologizes for not telling Chinatsu sooner; Chinatsu apologizes for falling for Kotarou.

That mood is upturned by one last, frankly cheeky request by Chinatsu: that she be allowed to confess to Kotarou, for “closure.” And herein lies the danger about which Akane’s big sister warned her: neither confrontation with Chinatsu over Kotarou resulted in closure. Chinatsu, fresh of her big track win, is feeling more confident than ever, while Akane has never felt less, despite the fact she has the guy.

But it doesn’t matter if Kotarou immediately says no. Putting Akane in such a position at all is a clown move by Chinatsu, straight up, as is pretending it’s not a big deal. It’s also a possible prelude to war, a war for Kotarou’s heart. And when friends go to war, they tend not to stay friends.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 05

Kotarou and Akane are officially dating now…but neither are quite sure what dating entails. They’re also keeping it a secret from their respective circles of friends, so they’re still not comfortable talking to each other at school, which gets old for them fast.

They need guidance on how to proceed, and both end up relying on a combination of advice from their elders (Kotarou’s senpai Daisuke and Akane’s big sis Ayane) and the interwebs. The next time they message each other, they’re on the same page about meeting up in the libarary, but the rendezvous is broken up by Chinatsu, who is clearly taking a shine to “Curly-kun.”

Akane is understandably upset, and this results in both her and Kotarou ending up with the wrong person at the wrong time: Akane with Hira-kun after track, and Kotarou with Chinatsu after cram school. It also doesn’t help that due in no small part to the emotional weight of their relationship, Kotarou is doing worse with his academics while Akane is slipping in athletics.

No matter: they want to meet, and Kotarou finds a way, as Daisuke lets him use his shop as a meeting place where they won’t be bothered by classmates (who are always portrayed as an irritant, heightened by the couple’s desire to simply be alone together).

Here, they do indeed finally get to be alone together, and revel in it, clearing the air, and even holding hands. But the bliss is all too brief; interrupted once more by an outside force: a text from Chinatsu to Akane announcing she may have a crush on Kotarou. This isn’t an out-of-nowhere twist for twists’ sake, because we’ve seen firsthand the easy chemistry of Chinatsu and Kotarou.

As Kotarou’s favorite writer says, humans are the only creatures who harbor secrets, and it’s a double-edged sword. Their secret relationship is exciting, but neglecting to tell Chinatsu before means that telling her now will end up stinging that much more. Hang in there, guys!

There’s a reason I watched and reviewed this before Saekano: At the moment, I’m simply more engaged and invested in Kotarou and Akane figuring out how to date than Tomoya & Co.’s amorphous dating sim struggles. It’s a straightforward narrative with a reliably steady progression and an appealing aesthetic (which would more appealing still if the CG NPCs were a little less zombie-like in their movements). It ain’t flashy, but it’s solid.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 04

It’s the School Trip episode, and there’s a sense of adventure to the proceedings, as the whole amassed class boards the Shinkansen and arrives in a bustling Kyoto. It’s just the start of a dense, lush, richly-detailed episode that nevertheless has a light touch due to the elegant plot.

You see, amidst this big trip, all Kotarou really wants is to know Akane’s answer to whether she’ll go out with him; the sooner the better. Because cell phones are officially forbidden, he has to hide his and hope it’s not confiscated; otherwise he’s doomed.

And I’m not kidding when I say Kyoto is bustling; the scenes of throngs of tourists milling around are pretty impressive, even if the CGI models are a little stiff, it’s better than panning stills; not to mention the accurate-to-Kyoto environs look great.

The fact that Kotarou and Akane have to contend not only with their nosy classmates, but also the vast space and volume of humanity Kyoto throws at them, really heightens the tension. Will they be able to meet on this trip?

C’mon, haven’t we all been there at some point: staring at our phone, the only light in the room at night, willing that next text to come in from the person you like? Even if you haven’t, the tension is thick enough to cut through with a knife.

The show does an excellent job thrusting us into the shoes of both Kotarou and Akane, making their various friends, nice that they are, feel like hovering irritants. They want to reach out to each other, but they’re mired in their respective circles.

Kotarou finally gathers the courage to send Akane a place and a time to meet…only for his phone to be confiscated by a (drunk) teacher at the worst possible time.

From there, it’s a textbook “missed/lost connection” scenario, as Akane sent a text asking Kotarou to elaborate on what he meant by the time and place…and she waits and waits, to no avail. So much must fly through her head: did he lose his phone, or is he intentionally ignoring her replies?

The beauty of this particular situation is that it simply unfolds before us without undue explanation, exposition, and precious little inner dialogue, really giving the increasingly awful-feeling situation room to breathe without undue verbal interference.

Kotarou has to muster courage once more, in order to borrow Chinatsu’s phone to call Akane. And Akane is rightly pissed, though neither she nor Kotarou should place so much hope in the reliability of cell phones. That’ll lead them to ruin!

All’s well that ends well, thankfully, and the tension is released when, after voicing her frustration with her ordeal and with their inability to clearly communicate thus far, Akane is the one who musters the courage to say something: that she wants to talk with Kotarou more.

That’s her answer, all but eliminating the ambiguity her fortune said would lead to calamity. Sure enough, the pouring rain ceases and the clouds part to reveal the beautiful blue sky. Now let’s hope these two crazy kids didn’t catch colds!

Tsuki ga Kirei – 03

I said last week that Akane and Kotarou aren’t in a hurry, but I guess I have to take that back now. Between all the pairing off going on in the run-up to the class trip, and the fact that at some point everyone will be heading off to various high schools, the two can’t sit on their hands forever. That being said, neither has any experience with courtship, so much of their nascent relationship is sustained through the messenger app LINE, as they remain painfully unable to talk to one another in school.

They also have a lot going on, what with Kotarou’s literature club and local festival activities and Akane’s track meet. This eats up the time they could be spending hanging out. Akane’s track buddy Nishio (who tended Kotarou’s wounds) considers him a friend now, and she’s serious about surpassing Akane, at least in track. Akane, meanwhile gets perilously close to being asked out by Hira; it’s only a random exclamation from a nearby party that makes him think better of it.

Kotarou can’t attend Akane’s meet due to his drumming practice, and the show really excels both at capturing the tension involved in waiting for someone you like to text you, and showing just how torturous it can be to have to carry on with your plans that don’t include that person.

Fortunately, fate smiles upon the couple, or rather, volition does. Kotarou isn’t in a hurry to leave the shrine, while Akane, whose phone died, decides to check out said shrine on the off-chance Kotarou is still there. He is, and they have a lovely, if at times understandably awkward, encounter under the beautiful moon.

And feeling both the pressure of time and the auspiciousness of another meeting with the lovely, warm, kind Akane, Kotarou manages to finally ask her out—not with Line, but with words. Not with chance, but with choice. Naturally, we don’t hear her reply, but their once tentative dynamic has already entered a new phase.

ReLIFE – 12

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It’s the end of the term and time for Summer Break – or in Kaizaki’s case, more lessons and make-up exams. There’s talk of the future. Oga mentions taking a look at universities other than the one Aoba High is affiliated with. Kariu gets restless.

Spring is classically when a young man’s fancy turns to love, but in Oga’s case, it’s Summer, and not without a considerable push from his de facto best mate Kaizaki, who has denied and is apparently content to continue to deny himself romance, since none of his high school friends will remember him at the end of the year.

At an impromptu adult celebration (i.e., with beer), Yoake and An mock his academic troubles, but also want the skinny on the Oga + Kariu impasse. Yoake also lauds his ReLIFE time as a “one year, limited edition of youth” he’s not taking full advantage of.

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Kaizaki simply groans at that, but the next day when he has Oga alone, he really presses him on who he likes. When he says “everyone”, he forces him to narrow it down based on certain criteria. Once those criteria enter Oga’s head, he visualizes who else but Kariu.

One hot Summer evening while Kaizaki and Oga are walking home proves to be the clincher as far as Oga realizing how he feels about Kariu. He spots her talking to a man in a suit who seems to be trying to get her into his car. Then she gets woozy and the man has to catch her.

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This is very confusing and not at all okay for Oga, who springs out to get to the bottom of it. Turns out, the man is Kaizaki’s kohai from last week (small world!) who saw that Kariu had heat stroke and didn’t want to leave her alone.

Oga offers to take her home, and because of Kariu’s state of mind, she lets her sincere, grateful side show, which Oga remarks at flippantly and gets punched for. “We’re always like this,” Oga says with a laugh. “It’s fun!”

He has no idea how much Kariu’s heart skipped upon hearing that, but on their silent walk home and late into the night, all Oga can think about is wanting to hold her hand.

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Officially in love with Kariu, like he always was without knowing it, Oga reports the revelation to Kaizaki, who is appropriately obnoxious, but also privately proud of both Oga and himself for giving him that little nudge (though Kaizaki’s kohai deserves a smidgen of credit too).

Yoake, An, and Hishiro join in the discussion of what the next steps should be, and when Oga mentions how much experience with girls Kaizaki’s had, Hishiro flashes her first forced smile in a while, clearly miffed by the implication (just as she was miffed her pleasant walk to school with Kaizaki was interrupted by An).

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Oga rises above all the chatter and bickering and makes the decision to invite Kariu to the Summer Fireworks Festival, in a text that bowls her over and has her wondering if he sent it in error (though he invites her by name, so that’s impossible).

She reaches out to the other girls, who also got invites, and realizes Oga invited everyone. She laments getting worked up for nothing, but agrees to go anyway. Inviting everyone is “just like Oga”, after all.

By the way, I really loved the energetic song that was played before, during, and after the credits: “Summer Festival” by Whiteberry, a super catchy, boisterous ode to life and youth featuring vocals that are just the right amount of off-key. Interestingly, it was released as a single in 2000, when Kaizaki (28 in 2016) was only 12. I figure it’s a song from his MD collection…

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 07

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More jobs have come for Futaba, Ichigo and Rin, to the point that they’re busy enough to end up in the same studio on the same day, not for their Earphones work but for three separate gigs: Futaba is dubbing a zombie movie with veteran Koyama Rikiya (and the rude guy who said she stunk way back when), Ichigo is reading for an audiobook, and Rin is doing voice work for a video game.

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Futaba is scared of the film’s horror theme, especially the fact one of her roles is a zombie, but eventually finds her footing, inspired by the always professional (and veggie juice-drinking) Koyama. Ichigo must adjust her voice to something less urgent than anime yet emphatic enough to get the point across. Rin has the strangest and most abstract job, simply firing off all her lines with no one else around, and even making noises for when her character receives small, medium, and large punches.

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While all three were nervous going into their respective jobs, by the end they’re all happy and confident in their performances. And while it’s raining when it’s time to leave the studio, Futaba and Ichigo remembered to bring umbrellas, proving they’ve grown since the day they had to share Rin’s due to poor preparation. That preparation and growth is also apparent, as both the rude guy and Koyama say Futaba did well, raising her spirits even more as they head to the wrap party.

So ends another funny, informative, and charming episode about the day in the life of new but increasingly successful seiyus.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 06

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Earphones are about to go through a very busy gauntlet of dancing lessons, recording, music video filming, events, and promotion for their first single, “Into Your Ears.” But before that, Futaba recalls the her of last year, who recorded a Drama CD with Kugimiya Rie (the show is on a mini Toradora! tear).

When she passes a video store and sees a display for an anime adaptation of the CD, she gets excited about having to budget her time even more, which feels pretty premature; it’s practically assured at this point she’s going to end up disappointed.

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Sure enough, she doesn’t hear from the producers of the CD when she should, and it’s Rin who inadvertently breaks the news to her in the middle of one of their radio shows: she, not Futaba, will be voicing Kugimiya’s little sister in the anime version.

Futaba is able to keep it together long enough to finish the show, but after that, she just needs to get away from Rin, and Ichigo, and everything. The show really lets us feel the sting of rejection, garnished with the extra shock of her friend and unit partner being the one usurping her.

It falls to her senpai Shiodome to talk her out of her funk, and I’m pleased to report Shiodome, while kind, isn’t overly or conspicuously kind, and it seems from her body language she’d prefer not to be so hands-on with her juniors, lest they not learn the lessons they need to learn. But in this case, Futaba had her idea of being a seiyu being a dream burst.

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Shiodome clarifies that it’s the audience that sees and hears the dream, not the seiyu. The seiyu make the dream possible through their commitment and professionalism, performing with everything they’ve got no matter what’s going on with their personal lives. And all seiyu, even TsundeRie and Hocchan, have felt the sting she’s feeling.

Futaba listens to her drama CD again and learns that the her of a year ago actually sucked, but realizes the fact she can tell is proof she’s grown, and demands more of herself. Expressing to Rin her jealousy and frustration with not getting the part, but also her excitment by what Rin will bring to the part, help clear the air.

For now, Futaba must focus on Earphones, singing and dancing her heart out. If she does well, she’ll get noticed, and other jobs will come.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 05

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After a few eps centered on Futaba, this week focuses on Ichigo, perhaps the most abrasive of the three members of Headphones due to her need to live her Strawberry Princess persona at all times. Even alone, she refers to her room as her kingdom, even though she was fired from her part-time job and both the electricity and gas have been switched off.

It’s certainly not all strawberries and cream for Ichigo, but she gets a call from her agency notifying her she won a role in the sequel to a popular video game. Sure, it’s the role of an artificial bug who sits on the main character’s shoulder and mostly just says “Poro”, but it’s a part, damnit! People whose utilities have been switched off can’t be picky!

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After collecting her three boxes of script for the game, she shows up at the Shibuya Public Hall for a pre-launch event hosted by the game company and featuring the cast, including the lead, who is none other than Horie Yui.

Full disclosure: I’ve only experienced a tiny fraction of the 350+ productions Hocchan has performed in since 1997, but I’ve been in love ever since her wonderful role as Minori Kushieda in Toradora!.She was also pretty fantastic in Golden TimeI could go on, but suffice it to say she’s a giant in the industry.

So it’s great to see Hocchan in anime form show up not just as a cameo, but a persistent figure throughout Ichigo’s very first event of this kind. What’s also great is how casual, down to earth, and approachable Ichigo discovers her hero to be, what with her mussed hair, comfortable wardrobe, and smushed melon-pan.

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Ichigo had a nightmare about performing before a totally silent crowd before the event where over 2,000 people will turn out, so she needs all the support she can get from more experienced talent. You don’t get much more experienced and professional than Hocchan. Ichigo’s reaction to Hocchan’s transformation from frumpy-ish housecat to stunning idol is pretty priceless. It’s one thing to see a celebrity in magazines or on TV, but in person it’s as if they become more real.

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The event unfolds as a sequence of stills, which is a bit lazy, but the episode is strapped for time at this point. In fact, the montage pretty effectively illustrates just how fast it all flies by for Ichigo, and how it’s all over before she even gets a good grasp of what she’s doing. But she shouldn’t have expected any more from herself; this was her first time, and she’ll get better at them with time.

Furthermore, watching Horie Yui fire up the crowd with a mini-concert (she is good at the theme song singing), and watching Hocchan’s professionalism and magnetic personality on display in general, inspires Ichigo to keep doing her best.

When her dad shot her a text asking how she was, Ichigo was about to tell him she’s scared and doesn’t know what to do, but decided not to send it. It was a brave gesture, showing that she trusts in her ability to get those lights and hot water back on very soon.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 07

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When two heavies in judo outfits confront Takeo while he’s on a pleasant stroll with his adorable GIRLFRIEND, I’m not concerned, because a.) two guys aren’t nearly enough against Takeo, and b.) they’re clearly there to ask him for help. Takeo says yes before he even finds out what they want: for him to join the team, replacing their injured captain.

Agreeing to commit to judo for a month is all well and good…but it will seriously eat into his Yamato time. Like a good boyfriend, he defers to her wishes. Like a good girlfriend, she tells him it’s fine by her. She’s legitimately glad he’s helping the team…not to mention she really wants to see him fight!

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The training is grueling—for the other judo team members, as Takeo tosses them about like ragdolls!—but that training is punctuated with texts of encouragement from Yamato, which he responds to with similar enthusiasm. It’s all very cute, especially when Yamato not only waits for Takeo outside his place with gourmet onigiri (“I can make other things!”), but confesses that she sneaked a look at his sparring—and loved every minute of it.

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There’s a slight chink in the mood when, after spotting a groper warning on a lamppost, Takeo brusquely tells Yamato she shouldn’t come by like this anymore. A chastened Yamato goes to Suna with a double shipment of scones, worried Takeo “doesn’t like her anymore”, but Suna sets her straight, assuring her it’s just another misunderstanding, and counseling her not to get so hung up on little things.

Yamato can hardly help it though, now that she knows what it’s like to be in love—mentioning the rush she gets from the bottom of her heart at the sight or thought of him. It’s a feeling she never wants to lose. She loves him so much, she creeps herself out, and even sees him in the stars, which would creep Suna out if a.) he wasn’t such an understanding and tolerant guy, and b.) he didn’t start seeing him in the stars too!

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Not that Takeo is any less crazy about Yamato. After a hard day of training, he just wants to hear her voice, so texts her and gets an immediate phone call from her. Suddenly on the spot, she starts by introducing herself and then improvising, but she gives him exactly what he wants: her voice.

On the day of the big match that will put Takeo’s school over their rival by one game in the historic series, Yamato (and Suna, for that matter) is hilariously dwarfed by all the huge bodies, but small as she is, her presence is crucial to Takeo’s success.

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When his old grade school buddy Tsuyoshi (who is about the same size as him, surprisingly) sees Yamato, he believes he’s already won, since Takeo has started “wasting his time” on romance. But he couldn’t be more wrong. Takeo may not know exactly what strength is, but Yamato’s presence increases his focus and his resolve to do his absolute best. He’s there first and foremost for her, not the judo team or glory. He wants to put in as much love and effort into his judo as she’s put into her cooking.

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After a spirited bout that excites everyone, not just Yamato, Takeo manages to throw Tsuyoshi down and win the match, putting his school over the top, 3-2. Afterwards, Takeo thanks a Yamato who is already close to passing out from excitement, taking her hands into his and making it plain that he won because she was there cheering for him.

Then the two of them and Suna drop some acid and look up at the sky and spot more constellations…of themselves! And Suna! And a macaron! (Seriously, Yamato would do well on Food Wars…) Takeo was crazy strong before he met Yamato, but now that she’s in his heart, and he in hers, he’s become even stronger. And I’ll tellya what else is crazy strong: this frikkin’ show.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 06 (Caught Up!)

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Due to watching so many romantic anime in which little problems needlessly snowball into bigger ones, it was refreshing to see one resolved in relatively short order. My theory was also proven correct, thanks to the intervention of a somewhat nosy but increasingly understanding Ai. But I don’t want to underscore the difficulty Yamato had in presenting her case to Takeo, which is why she hesitated so much.

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I imagine he’s been operating under the assumption that she’s good and pure because she sees the goodness in his heart and loves him despite his looks. In truth, Yamato likes Takeo’s body, from his eyebrows and full lips to his broad shoulders, rippling pecs, and huge hands. She well and truly has the hots for him, and wants more physical contact, not less.

At first Ai confronts Yamato with suspicion, but ends up agreeing with all the things Yamato says about Takeo, and totally understanding Yamato’s situation, and tells her to go to him and tell him everything she told her; he’s not so fragile he’d cast her aside. Yamato runs off, a huge weight lifted from her shoulders.

Her sudden and adorable faceplant, from which she shoots back up after a beat before continuing on her way, really underscores how pumped up she is, so eager to get to Takeo that she forgets the rudiments of ambulation.

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It might have been better for Ai if her initial suspicions were right; that Yamato was deceiving Takeo or having an affair, because this is the episode in which Ai realizes she’s lost Takeo—not to a hussy, but to a genuinely good person in Yamato, and she hid her own feelings for him too long—partially because they’re three grades apart.

Still, their age difference didn’t matter when Takeo made a “from the mouth of babes” compliment on a beauty she didn’t know she had. She had a growth spurt long before he did, and her tall, lean frame was mocked by classmates as reminiscent of a school statue with the same build. Takeo didn’t know anything about that; to him, she resembled a calla lily. From that point on, Ai was smitten.

But like Takeo aimed to do with Yamato, she decided to wait for him to “grow up,” but waited too long. Ai can’t hold back how upset she is about this, and heads back to college early. She’s happy for Takeo, but devastated that her long-time love has found someone else; someone just as worthy as she is. Good on you, show, for making Ai more than the cliched rival, but a tragic figure in and of herself.

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Ai and Suna find Takeo rescuing a cat from a tree, and tell him Yamato is headed to his place, in tears. They don’t have to say another word, as Takeo demonstrates his impressive running speed and endurance. He meets Yamato in front of his house, where he tells her whatever has been troubling her, she can tell him; she can tell him everything. And she does: She wants to hold hands; he wants to be cuddled; she wants to be kissed by those lips that won’t quit.

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Those are all big steps for her and Takeo, but Takeo assures her they’re steps they’ll take together. Now that she sees she had nothing to worry about, Yamato opens up more to Takeo about how she’s not the good person he thought she was: she found his address by asking around his school, and even left her cell in his house on purpose.

Learning of these tactics doesn’t disappoint Takeo; in fact they make him happy that she went to such lengths to get closer to him. His reassurances move Yamato to tears, something Takeo promised he’d never make her cry again, but Yamato tells him happy tears don’t count. After spending the last few nights worried the truth would cost her Takeo, tonight she’ll be grinning ear to ear knowing the conflict they overcame ended up deepening their relationship. They’re in a good place again, thank goodness. On to the next crisis!

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In the hilarious omake that closes the episode, Takeo, anticipating a kiss in the near future, decides he needs to practice on real human lips; lips that will remain sealed about his practice. Naturally, those lips belong to Suna. I find it ironic that every girl in their school, along with most other women in public, want nothing more than to lock lips with Suna, but it’s Takeo who actually gets to do it—albeit through a layer of plastic wrap!

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Ore Monogatari!! – 05 (Tardy)

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Ho boy: no sooner do I agree with Suna’s assessment that soul mates Takeo and Yamato could potentially grow old and wrinkled, we’re treated to a splash of cold water. On the one hand, I was a little disappointed the show turned back to the issue of poor communication and incorrect assumptions within the couple, but then I remembered: Takeo and Yamato are only a couple now thanks to Suna’s direct measures.

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That means Takeo’s inherent denseness hasn’t gone away, and it was only a matter of time before that denseness led to some kind bump in the road. And while I may be proven wrong in the very next episode, I’m willing to bet the “truth” Yamato is so desperately trying to but can’t communicate to Takeo has to do with his opinions about the kind of person she is.

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Takeo is the guy who puts his body on the line to help others, like saving a boy who fell into a river, almost every day, only for Suna, if he’s around, to get thanked. It’s perfectly reasonable then, for him to have a skewed perspective of the first and so far only girl he likes who likes him back.

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He also turns a lot of the societal discomfort with his immense size on himself with regards to physical contact with Yamato. When he bumps her on the train, it’s an accident, but one of his classmates saw it as a perfect opportunity to kiss a girl. When he touches her head, it’s to trap a ladybug.

Then, on a romantic, starlit walk, he makes it clear to her he “won’t lay a hair on her head until she’s grown up,” convinced she’s a good and pure girl. Heck, he’s even bringing Suna along on their dates because he’s worried he makes her nervous when they’re alone, which we know isn’t the case.

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It’s nice to finally get a peek at Yamato’s life when Takeo’s not around. It’s kind of lonely and sad seeing her all alone in that big dark house, trying to find the right words to text before sending another text that’s all bubbly and girly and promising of baked goods. She then sets to work baking, but doesn’t seem to be enjoying it in the slightest. It looks like she’s doing chores.

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When Suna’s big sister Ai returns home, we learn that she’d always carried a flame for the big galoot, and is not so much shocked as dejected that another girl got to him first. She also immediately suspects this girl sight unseen, because she finds it hard to believe anyone other than her would find Takeo boyfriend material…especially at first sight (though Suna doesn’t mention Takeo saved her).

When she arranges to meet Takeo and Yamato, she notices immediately that Yamato is hiding something, assuming all the worst things. And you know what? There are moments when we’re almost convinced something is up with Yamato, and she’s scared of breaking the big guy’s heart.

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Ai further inserts herself into Takeo’s affairs by offering to talk to Yamato on his behalf, believing it will be easier to talk woman-to-woman. Takeo, creepily perusing a teen-girl magazine to “learn how girls think” at the time, clearly needs all the help he can get. I’m not going to subscribe to Ai’s theories about infidelity—she’s demonstrated beyond all doubt that she really likes Takeo—but I am hoping Ai can get to the bottom of her troubles.

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As for my theory, I think Yamato doesn’t like how Takeo is so quick to call her a good and pure girl. I think she was hurt by all those good moments for leaning in for a kiss Takeo failed to capitalize on. I think she’s frustrated that he’s painting a not altogether accurate picture of who she is (remember, they haven’t known each other that long) She’s perpetuating that persona, and it’s wearing on her.

She wants to set him straight and tell him she wants more intimacy, not less, but can’t find the right words, and is worried he’ll reject her “impure” self. So the problem rattles around her head and keeps her up at night, sitting alone in the dark hugging a pillow.

But I for one think she’s worrying needlessly. All Takeo wants is for her to not be in knots, and I believe him when he says whatever she has to say to him, he’ll accept it. If my theory is correct—that Yamato wants to get closer—he’ll most likely be overjoyed.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 04 (Belated)

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Gosh dang…it is indeed Spring…and that might be the best episode I’ve watched all Spring. There’s certainly no more adorable and rootable couple than Takeo and Yamato. I get on people for taking selfies, but Yamato is allowed, dammit!

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The episode starts off with Takeo still reeling over the happiness in his heart over snagging an honest-to-God girlfriend in Yamato who is herself utterly devoted to him. She derives as much joy from telling her friend on the phone “I’m with my boyfriend!” as Takeo derives from hearing the words.

Yamato asks if Takeo would be okay with doing a Single’s Meet with her; all he has to do is wrangle five of his single friends. He has way more than five, because he’s a great guy. And when Yamato’s five friends lay eyes on Takeo for the first time, their reactions are…understandable, considering they’re products of society, naturally attracted to Suna.

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Whether it’s saving Yamato from falling by plucking her up like a ragdoll, carrying huge loads in their way, or opening a non-twist-off bottle, Takeo’s feats of strength don’t impress them so much as…well, scare them. Like the mom with the baby whose stroller Takeo took to the top, the mom is scared of the big bad-looking guy, while the hot guy next to him gets all the love, even though he doesn’t want it. Suna only smiles and laughs in reaction to something Takeo is doing, which makes the girls swoon.

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Takeo is also a somewhat naive guy who thinks Yamato’s friends will be good people because she’s a good and genuine person. Suna warns him about such assumptions, and then they’re shattered altogether when Takeo and Yamato overhear two of her friends talking shit about him behind her back, calling him “barely human” and a “gorilla.” It’s cutting stuff, and to it’s credit the episode doesn’t hold the elephant in the room back. On the surface, to most people, Takeo is a frightening bear-man.

This is a fact Takeo knows all too well, to the point that the insults roll right off him; he’s heard it all, both to his face, behind his back, and in people’s eyes. He’s more upset about Yamato being hurt, causing her to exclaim to them “He’s really super-cool!” before running off.

Fortunately, Takeo is able to head her off in no time, as his gait is significantly longer, and assures her everything is fine. He brings out one of his simple yet powerful sayings, about their being “all kinds of people”, without whom they wouldn’t have met. Yamato, bless her, finally wonders if maybe she just didn’t properly explain to her friends how cool Takeo is, blaming herself for their ignorance.

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Then…the frikin’ cafe EXPLODES.

I must say, I really wasn’t expecting that, but there was foreshadowing earlier, what with the bucket and boxes blocking the hall and the locked emergency exit. This establishment has lots of fire code violations, which lessened the randomness of the incident. In any case, with the two girls who talked shit about him still inside the burning building, Takeo doesn’t hesitate to rush in to save them.

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He’s able to carry one of the girls out to safety, then uses his big body as a shield to protect the second from getting smashed by debris, allowing her to run out on her own. After calling fire and ambulance, Suna calls Takeo, and tells him he’d better come out of the cafe soon, because Yamato has to be held back from going in after him by her two friends.

There’s true love in action here, people. Not only between Yamato and Takeo, but Suna and Takeo, who tells him with a voice that almost breaks that his life will be too boring without him. Like the Hulk, Takeo summons an extra reserve of strength to slip out from under the debris and blast out of the cafe window in dramatic fashion.

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Yamato rushes over to him and is almost lost in his arms as they embrace, with Takeo completely oblivious that his back is still on fire. The girls he saved thank him, and all the girls’ hearts skip a beat when he shoots them a look of affirmation, in spite of themselves. Takeo may not be their type, but now they know he’s a great guy and the right match for their Yamato. And they know they were wrong to insult him.

I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a non-harem romantic comedy in my stable; one where the guy and girl don’t get lost in tangled webs of misunderstandings and omission and hesitations and love triangles. This couple is alright; heck, Suna sees them old and wrinkly talking about how much they love all four of the seasons.

But more than taking the roads less traveled, no other show this Spring captures how gosh-darn good it feels to be in love and be loved back. Food tastes better, the air smells fresher, and the sun shines brighter. Things that are indisputably awesome: Takeo; Yamato; Suna; and this show.

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