Yuru Camp△ 2 – 08 – Wabi-Sabi Worrywart

Chiaki, Aoi, and Ena take the episode off this week, as aside from a sprinkling of Sakura it’s a totally Nadeshiko & Rin show, and every moment of it is superbly sublime. It may be my imagination, but this is also an episode that gets a little more creative with camera angles and techniques.

We start with a very cinematic opening shot of Nadeshiko walking through a tunnel. It almost appears like Nadeshiko is walking down the tunnel to enter a Space Shuttle, but the drama is nicely subverted by her singing to herself about towns and the foods they’re known for.

In the middle of her uphill trudge, she stops to soak up the gorgeous view, only to stop herself lest she spoil the view from the campsite. Once she’s arrives, she revels in the wide open space, inspects the clean facilities, and says hi to a camping dad and his two kids.

Nadeshiko gets swept off her feet while laying out her ground cover, and bends one of her tent pegs (just like Rin did once), but is otherwise able to get her tent up without any trouble. She then breaks out all the groceries she bought and prepares for some culinary experimentation. The older of the two camping kids is bemused by this “loner girl”.

Meanwhile, Rin fakes out the audience by first lamenting another path closed for the winter (with another cool camera angle), but it’s a tunnel she already knew would be closed, which coincidentally leads to the Yashajin Pass, where she met the tea shop lady. After arriving in famously scenic Hayakawa and attempting to cross the suspension bridge over the lake, she continues on the Rindou Ikawa Amehata Line to the hot springs.

This also marks the first time a character in the show has uttered the term wabi-sabi, an aesthetic philosophy centered around the “acceptance of and appreciation for transience, imperfection, and incompletion”. In its depictions of Japan’s infrastructure and nature, Yuru Camp and its characters have been uniformly enthusiastic devotees of this worldview.

We get a Sakura sighting as she’s at a store that sells wild game considering whether to buy some deer or some bear paw, but after a quick Googling reveals a far-too-laborious process for cooking said paws, she goes for the easier deer. The final shot in the store is a novel fish-eye surveillance camera filming her from behind and at a distance.

After soaking in the pleasantly not-too-hot spring, Rin enjoys a spell in a massage chair, which must feel especially heavenly after all those hours in the moped saddle. She notices that Nadeshiko hasn’t texted her anything since the photo of her at the Tomato Mart, and decides to give her a call, only to get an automated “phone turned off or out of range” message.

That would be that, except that Rin is both a caring friend and feels responsible for Nadeshiko’s safety after getting her so interested in solo camping. Try as she might to put worries out of her mind, she instead envisions how she’d worry about her at various stages of her own camping trip.

She decides the only way to allay those fears is to take a slight detour and go check on her. Sakura seems to be on the same wavelength as Rin, as she uses the Find My Family app to discern Nadeshiko’s precise location.

Nadeshiko is actually doing just fine, having wrapped all of her veggies in foil and roasted them in a campfire she made inside the cooking pavilion. But when the two camping kids go to the pavilion to heat up their konbini dinners, again the older sister is bemused and a bit weary. Nadeshiko breaks out a little old country granny, further adding to the witch-like aura.

The little brother is the first to approach her, and learns that if she is a witch, she’s a good and kind witch, and one that’s great at outdoor cooking! She roasts a little bit of everything, with the tomato, potato, eggplant and sweet potatoes being particularly successful, the avocado less so, and the carrot gets over-charred.

Nadeshiko not only makes friends of the family, but also inspires the kids to cook next time they go camping, after finding out how easy it can be—literally just wrap a cheap sweet potato in foil, toss it into the flame, and wait! As they part ways, Rin arrives at the campsite to find that Nadeshiko is find, and cell phones just get spotty reception.

When she returns to the parking lot she encounters two glowing eyes and is scared shitless, but it’s just fellow worrywart Sakura, secretly checking in on her sister. The two decide, while they’re there, they might as well go up to the top to see the famously awesome nightscape. I mean, it’s a nightscape!

They do so—and the view is indeed awesome—but are almost caught but for the fact they could hear Nadeshiko coming from her singing to herself. They dash into the tall grass as Nadeshiko beholds the nightscape, takes a selfie, and then wanders around the area trying to find a bar with which to send it.

Rin and Sakura make it out of there without being seen, and as they drive off together, Sakura gets the selfie from Nadeshiko and has Rin stop so she can see it too, then offers to buy her dinner in town. As for Nadeshiko, she sets herself up in her cozy, toasty caterpillar-like sleeping bag on a bench overlooking the nightscape.

I for one am glad she didn’t spot Rin or Sakura, as it preserves the spirit, if not the letter, of the “solo-ness” of her trip, since she didn’t actually ask anyone to stop by and check on her, and there was no need to do so as she was perfectly fine on her own. That said, I’m sure she would have felt good knowing her friend and sister wouldn’t hesitate to do so, even if it diverted them from their own plans. That’s love, baby!

Yuru Camp△ 2 – 07 – Going Solo

Chiaki, Aoi, and Ena were a lot of fun these past two episodes, but by the end of their Lake Yamanaka trip I was ready for some Rin and Nadeshiko time, and that’s what we get here! After Ena shows Chiaki some photos from their almost-ill-fated trip, it finally happens: Rin’s little grill is used as an offertory box, as they drop a coin in and praise their mutual savior. Rin’s deadpan reply is simple and perfect: “No worshipping.”

Ena splits, enabling Nadeshiko to talk solo camping with Rin. Rin’s a little surprised someone as gregarious as Nadeshiko has taken an interest in it, but is happy to offer all the advice she can. In what seems like an intentional contrast to Chiaki mostly winging it, relying on luck, and paying the price, Nadeshiko is determined to plan her first trip The Right Way, and not bite off more than she can chew.

Rin’s insights and advice prove indispensable as Nadeshiko makes a master list of things to do. First, she tells her family she’s going solo, and Sakura quickly and clandestinely downloads a GPS app so they’ll know where she is—a move that’s as wise as Nadeshiko’s curious “What are you doing?” is hilarious.

She finds a spot that won’t be too cold that’s within walking distance of a train station (and in cellular range), checks the weather and in particular the day-to-night changes in temperature, and makes a list of things to do while she’s there so she doesn’t get bored. The big day arrives, and after sliding all of her gear onto her back with a “hup”, she’s off to Fujikawa by way of Fujinomiya.

Rin, who also has the weekend off, decides to take a solo trip of her own, this time heading to Lake Amehata in picturesque Hayakawa, first stopping at a super-cozy home café in Akasawa for mamemochi and amazake (with barley tea on the house).

Nadeshiko reports via photo of her arrival in Fujinomiya, and after praying at the temple there for a safe and fun solo camping trip, she stays the growling of her stomach as she passes restaurants on the way to the yakisoba place her sister recommended.

Sakura, who is also getting her sister’s photo updates, is driving … somewhere. Where precisely, we’re not told, but it looks for all the world like she’s trailing Nadeshiko like an overprotective parent, even though that seems like overkill. Nadeshiko even senses she’s being followed and looks behind her several times.

Rin leaves Akasawa and visits the Giant Cedar of Yushima. All the gorgeous scenery she rides and walks through really gives you the warm exciting feeling of exploring new and unfamiliar places. And then, as she pulls into a café near the Lake Narada Hot Springs, the Sakura mystery is solved, with Rin finding her car parked in the lot.

As Rin spots Sakura and starts to follow her, Nadeshiko finally gets a spot in the yakisoba place, and once seated, she quickly learns she’d better shout out her order when requested or she’ll be passed up. Trusting in her fellow orderers, she gets a gomoku shigure-yaki, a thoroughly rib-sticking local specialty of okonomiyaki and Fujinomiya yakisoba.

Due to the set up, we’re able to watch along with Nadeshiko every step of the way as her food comes together, and the opposite is true as well: the cook is able to see Nadeshiko’s patented “This is Super Tasty” Face. She snaps a pic for Rin, who is viewing it just as Sakura walks up to her.

Her “cover” blown, Rin decides to have some tea with Sakura, and while initially finds their silence awkward due to Nadeshiko not being there, Sakura is always ready to talk Moped Stories, the show Rin watched with the others during Christmas Camping. Rin also learns that Sakura is a fellow solo-er, taking a drive once a month or so to places featured on travel shows.

When talk turns to Nadeshiko, Rin can tell Sakura is worried, but right on cue Nadeshiko texts both of them a photo of her superbly round and jolly face standing outside the Tomato Food Market, where she’ll shop for dinner supplies before heading to the campsite.

Sakura heads to the hot spring, Rin continues on to her campsite, and Nadeshiko arrives in Fujikawa. She’s only a 5.5km (around 3.4 miles) walk from the “Fujikawa Healthy Greenspace Campsite”, the fictional version of Nodayama Health Ryokuchi Park. Thanks to the physical conditioning her sister forced upon her, it should indeed be a walk in the park!

Jaku-Chara Tomozaki-kun – 10 – Not-So-Laid-Back Camp▽

After a very cute meet-up with Mimimi at the local train, Tomozaki finds suddenly himself on a perfectly conventional normie event, in which he, Mimimi, Hinami, and Mizusawa are scheming to bring Nakamura and Yuzu closer together, starting with the two sitting next to each other on the train to their camping spot. Also, Takei is there. Hinami sits with Tomozaki, and assigns his task for the trip: tease, make a suggestion, and/or disagree with Nakamura three times, with the aim of becoming his friend.

As I suspected, both she and Tomozaki learned the wrong lesson from Fuuka’s “hard to talk to” comment: It’s clear Fuuka preferred when he was just being himself and talking with her naturally rather than parroting normie lines when he fundamentally isn’t a normie. I understand Tomozaki’s obliviousness, but why Hinami doesn’t grasp this I cannot say. Maybe she’s just that far removed from non-normie life?

After arriving at Hanno Station the group heads to their campsite and goes full Yuru Camp, complete with barbecue (prepared by Yuzu and Nakamura) tarp and chairs (Mizusawa, Mimimi and Takei) and a fire, which is handled by Hinami and Tomozaki. Himami later explains why she chose the groups, and in grouped herself with him in part so she wouldn’t have to “put on an act” all the time, as she admits its tiring.

While Tomozaki reacts with relief to learn she gets tired about something, I still feel her comment flies under his radar. Not only does it confirm that she’s not a true normie (who wouldn’t have to “put on” an act or even recognize it as such), but also feels most at ease around him, with whom she can be herself. She’s a wonderful enigma: she’s both the normiest normie who ever normied, and yet to maintain that requires someone who is literally not a normie.

After a feast, some mild riverside swimsuit fanservice, and a nice accidental assist by Takei to get Yuzu literally in Nakamura’s arms, the boys and girls retire to their respective cabins for some down time. Talk of Shuuji’s ex Shimano comes up, and Tomozaki scores the first of three points by teasing that Shimano is stringing him along, engendering laughter from Nakamura and Takei.

Takei unwittingly assists the others again by distracting Nakamura with arm wrestling while they all LINE about how the operation is going. The guys report that Shuuji mentioned a girl he could see himself going out with, but who is asking him for advice about a guy she likes. The girls confirm that it’s Yuzu telling Shuuji there’s a hypothetical guy she’s interested in.

During a game of tycoon in which Hinami and Tomozaki dominate, Tomozaki gets in his second tease by pointing out Nakamura never made it past Commoner in the game. Nakamura concedes the point, then moves on to Mizusawa, and how he’s been flirting with a girl from another school. This almost seems to irk Mizusawa, as he excuses himself to go to the bathroom.

Tomozaki follows him, and Mizusawa seems comfortable talking about it with him more. Tomozaki can’t imagine himself being bold enough to ask out a girl from another school, and when Mizusawa admits he might not like her, Tomozaki asks why he’d date someone he didn’t like. Mizusawa’s response under his breath, “You’re not just being polite, are you?” is cryptic.

Maybe the girl is just good in bed. Maybe he’s seeking to date someone outside of their circle, say, to give Tomozaki a chance at Hinami. In any case, when the boys are bathing, the other three learn that Tomozaki is hung, nicknaming him “Army Boy”, and he scores his first point by playfully calling Nakamura “tiny.” Hinami and Mimimi can apparently hear all of this.

While it was hinted that Hinami might’ve been lying when she denied she and Mizusawa were dating, but this episode seems to help make the case she was being honest. For while show is eminently comfortable executing its more nuanced version of the standard High School Camping Trip scenario, Tomozaki is anything but laid-back, especially when the Test of Courage comes around.

After Nakamura and Yuzu head off together as planned, rock-paper-scissors puts Hinami and Tomozaki together once more. This presumably means Hinami can relax and “drop the act” like when they were building the fire. Instead, she decides to make it walking-confidently-with-a-scared-girl practice for Tomozaki, suddenly acting timid and clinging to him.

Tomozaki is convinced Hinami is merely teasing her, deriving pleasure by getting him all flustered. But considering she’s never been this close and physical with him, you have to wonder if her motives go beyond mere teasing, and whether she’s using that as an excuse to be genuinely clingy with him. Otherwise, how far would this kind of “practice” go?

The episode seems on the cusp of answering that question when Tomozaki attempts to exact revenge by disturbing a live cicada. It works better than he expected, as she seems 100% genuine in being so horribly startled she ends up on her knees. She insists he help her up, and she wraps her arms around him, the two seem to realize in what a romantic position they’ve ended up. As his gaze settles on Hinami’s soft lips, both we and Tomozaki have to ponder: is simply practice taken to the HEXtreme, or is it something else … something real?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

Yuru Camp△ – 06 – Girls with Grills

Rin should close up the library, but the heater is so nice she’s hesitant to leave. She realizes she has a package in her bag, and opens it to reveal a collapsible compact portable grill, which is a pretty nifty bit of kit. She also has yet to bump into Nadeshiko in order to give her her gift of chocolate buns from Nagano, but as she tells Ena, she just “can’t get used to the vibe” in the Outclub room.

Rin’s reluctance will soften at some point, what with the opening scene of the series showing both Rin and Ena camping with the Outclub. And her gateway drug to the Outclub is Nadeshiko, whom Rin finds sleeping in the stacks, also enjoying the library heat. Rin can’t help but smile watching Nadeshiko quickly house the chocolate buns.

Knowing that watching Nadeshiko eat something makes that thing look at least twice as delicious, she agrees to go with her on a camping trip, which will also be an opportunity to put her new portable grill—which both Ena and Nadeshiko initially mistake for a metal offertory box—through its paces.

After five episodes of beating around the bush, it’s finally happening: Rin and Nadeshiko are officially taking camping trip together. It was nice to see Sakura, apparently the only fam Nadeshiko has, meeting Rin’s mom, who may be Rin’s only fam. Rin is also struck by Sakura’s beauty, especially in contrast to her “blah” kid sister!

Sakura has agreed to drive them to the Lake Shibire Campgrounds, a little-known spot among the five lakes recommended by Chiaki for their autumnal splendor. Rin and Nadeshiko hit up the supermarket first, and while they’re initially crestfallen by the lack of pork jowl, horumon (offal), skirt, tongue, and ribeye, they do find some convenient and tasty pork and chicken skewers, while Nadeshiko plans to make a mini hot-pot as well.

Their feast thus purchased (and rung up by none other than Aoi, who just so happened to get a job at that particular supermarket), Sakura drives them the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Chiaki is already scouting out another campground for the Outclub’s next excursion, and meets one classy grandpa living his best life in the woods with a single pole tent and a big steak cooking on a cast-iron skillet.

Rin and Nadeshiko arrive and soak in the lovely foliage, then head to the other side of the lake where their campsite is located. Sakura orders a hot chai and takes in the scenery on her own before heading back, planning to return tomorrow at noon. Nadeshiko insists her big sis loves driving—and with that ultra-cool Rasheen, I can’t blame her!—but I felt she put out kind of a lonely vibe this week.

Maybe I’m just misreading her neutral expression. At any rate, I’m super-excited for Rin and Nadeshiko’s first official camping trip. Nadeshiko may crumple at the mere mention of ghosts, such as that of a cow believed to haunt the lake, but with someone as tough as Rin as her campmate, she has nothing to worry about. If anything, that ghost cow should worry about being turned into ghost barbecue!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Yuru Camp△ – 05 – So Far and Yet So Close

The contrasts between the two parallel camping trips continue. The Outclub takes a relaxing dip at the hot springs with an excellent view, while Rin is…still on her bike. As it gets colder and colder she wonders if she was too ambitious right after getting her license.

Still, she presses on due to the rewards of reaching her destination: a rare and unique view that includes Matsumoto City, Lake Suwa, and Fuji-san all together…and the promise of hot springs to warm her road-chilled bones. When all’s said and done, she logged over 150 kilometers.

It is then heartbreaking when, after finally biking the extra 6 km to the hot springs, parking her bike, and grabbing her towel, Rin is greeted by a locked door and a sign saying the springs are closed. Bummer!

Her hot spring plans are dashed, but she’s still excited at the prospect of that rare view…only for it to be covered in thick grey clouds at the designated vantage point. Fortunately, upon reaching the peak of Mt. Takabotchi, the clouds part and reveal a heavenly sight. Heartened and energized, she whips up her first camp meal of one-pot soup-style pasta.

Rin sends a pic of her tasty-looking meal to Nadeshiko, waking her up. She, Aoi and Chiaki went and overslept at the hot springs lounge, underscoring the dangers of hot springs: once you go, it’s very hard to leave! Fortunately, the campground manager doesn’t mind their lateness.

The girls set up their campsite, which also sports a lovely and expansive view. For their first fire they try a Swedish torch, then Nadeshiko prepares a “stewed” curry with tonkatsu ramen powder in the broth, a nifty little hack she’s glad Chiaki notices.

After dinner and marshmallows by the fire, the three soon learn that one tent isn’t big enough for the three of them. Aoi and Chiaki play scissors to Nadeshiko’s paper, so she ends up alone in the crappy blue tent with their gear. No matter; before going to sleep Nadeshiko contacts Rin, who herself is still awake.

The two leave the warmth and comfort of their winter sleeping bags to venture out to the spots with the best night view possible, all so they can exchange where they are with one another. As the soundtrack swells their reactions to receiving each other’s photos says it all: While they may be far away from each other, overlooking different glowing cityscapes, they share the same starry night sky.

It’s a beautiful way to conclude both Rin and the Outclub’s most ambitious camping trips yet, Rin’s long cold ride being a particularly impressive accomplishment. She and Nadeshiko may have shared a couple of meals, but they still have yet to officially camp together. We’ll see if they’ll remain apart for their next excursions, or if Rin and Nadeshiko ditch the LINE and experience the sky while standing beside each other.

Yuru Camp△ – 04 – Go-Go Outclub Rangers!

The newly three-member Outclub kicks into gear with preparations for their first camping trip together, starting with trying to keep the budget as tight as possible. While experimenting with different forms of insulation for an otherwise useless-in-the-winter summer sleeping bag, Nadeshiko repeatedly runs into the school and back to retrieve materials they need, like an eager puppy.

Nadeshiko and Aoi are able to make Chiaki warm, but at the cost of being all packed up and ready to ship to Abu Dhabi, like Nermal. They ultimately decide to buy winter sleeping bags, ensuring they each get a unique color. Nadeshiko will be Outclub Red, Aoi Outclub Blue, and Chiaki Outclub Yellow.

Meanwhile, Rin prepares to kick into literal gear of her moped, now that she’s gotten her license. We also learns she works part-time at at bookstore to fund her solo camping obsession. What a good kid! Nadeshiko texts her a photo of Chiaki all packed up, leading Rin to wonder just what the heck those weird girls are up to!

The Outclub picks a campground and a date, and hit up the store to buy all of the stuff they don’t already have. My one wish is that we’d have gotten an exact figure for the total cost of their supplies, but that’s okay. As for Rin, by God is she inspiring, heading out in the early morn with her little bike packed to the gills with gear.

The next day, Nadeshiko misses a bus, but it’s no big deal. The three of them aren’t in any rush; the whole point of their excursion is to relax! Chiaki and Aoi note that Nadeshiko is carrying all her gear on her back, while they have more convenient dollies. They worry she won’t be able to make the four-kilometer hike from the station to the campground.

In what should come as no surprise, Nadeshiko’s energy stores prove inexhaustible. She’s not just a puppy, she’s a pack mule! Speaking of cute animals, Rin encounters a puppy in the back window of a van that moves to whatever side of the lane on which she stops. When the van turns off, Rin is sad, only to find another van ahead of her filled with many dogs!

When the Outclub reaches a famous vantage point at Fuefuki Park, Nadeshiko can’t resist a photo shoot, which she shares with Rin via LINE-like app. The three decide to hit up a café for some sugary treats to recharge their batteries, each sharing one another’s desserts and making me wish I could safely go to cafés with my friends! Maybe someday…

Rin gets Nadeshiko’s message about the apple soft just as she’s pulled into a rest stop at Kirigamine, and decides to stop in to warm up a bit; the closer she gets to her destination of Nagano, the colder it gets, but it’s clear she’s not afraid of a challenge. She picks a cozy spot by the iron wood stove in a room she has all to herself.

Recalling she has some cash to spend from her job, she decides to splurge on a Borscht lunch set with a Caramel Macchiato, and does not regret it, as the Slavic soup quickly distributes warmth to every corner of her body. She texts her feast to Nadeshiko, who asks where she’s headed, and rather than simply text back “Nagano”, Rin chooses a unique way to respond: by sending Nadeshiko a link to a live webcam then waving to her in real time.

The Outclub unanimously decided to stop by the Hottokeya Hot Springs before continuing on to the Eastwood Campgrounds, but as soon as they enter the lounging area, they worry about relaxing so damn hard they won’t be able to leave and go do what they came to do…camp!

This Yuru Camp felt like the best of both worlds: the Outclub’s more spirited and boisterous three-girl journey, cross-cut with Rin’s more Zen solo trip. Both look like a lot of fun! There’s also a wonderful shifting between hot and cold; between exertion and relaxation. Every Outclub member is a ton of fun, but Rin remains the show’s undisputed MVP and my personal hero.

Wonder Egg Priority – 03 – Soft-Boiled

The bright colors and dark themes continue to intermesh as the third girl of the series is introduced. Kawai Rika’s ash-blonde hair is set off by a hot pink highlight and a magenta-and-purple jacket. Like Ai, she has a statue of someone she’s trying to save, though she makes a point to tell her she’s fat and ugly and her palm sweaty. When Ai meets her at the egg gachapon, Rika is on the ground, holding her ribs, but soon recovers miraculously.

After commenting on Ai’s heterochromia, and promptly asks for some spare change. Aka and Ura-Aka, always seated around a game of go, aren’t concerned with the injuries the girls endure; it’s part of the job. Ai’s excitement to meet a new egg heroine quickly shifts to bemusement, as her interaction with Rika feels like a “one-girl handshake event”, as Ai puts it to Neiru, with whom she’s now texting on the regular.

Between barging in on Ai’s visit with Neiru, always making sure people know her name is Kawai because she’s so darn cute, calling the doctor hot, labeling Neiru a tsundere, and most distressingly eating up all the kiwi, Rika creates the impression of a superficial, shameless, self-involved brat. Nevertheless, she keeps following Ai around, inviting herself over to her house (causing Ai’s counselor Sawaki—whom Rika also calls hot—to leave) and unilaterally deciding to sleep over.

When Ai tells her about why she’s currently a shut-in, Rika immediately jumps to the conclusion Ai is seeking attention from the hot Sawaki. Then Ai tells her about Koito, then asks about the person Rika is trying to save. Rika makes clear the “ugly fatty” Chiemi isn’t her friend, but her fan, and also refers to her as a patron and a wallet. Ai is more or less appalled.

As Rika bathes we see scars on her arm from cutting, which she’s promised to stop. It was clear she was using a veneer of carefree bravado to hide deeper issues, but the scars confirm it without anyone saying a word. She says everyone’s the same in that when you “scratch the surface” they’re all “slimy”—something you could also say of an egg. Neiru texts Ai to be careful with Rika, warning that “junior idol could mean bedroom stuff.” That Ai earnestly asks “like pillow fights?” really says it all about Ai’s sheltered existence.

Ai dreams of a memory of her walking in on Koito crying while in Sawaki’s arms, adding a fresh dimension to their past together. One could interpret such a scene in any number of ways both innocent and otherwise, but Ai quickly apologizes and shuts the classroom door, believing she’d seen something she shouldn’t have. She’s also pondered ever since whether Sawaki was a factor Koito’s suicide. She wakes up in her cocoon bed, over 50% of which is being taken up by the smaller Rika.

Ai then awakes in Rika’s dream. Due to their proximity in bed they “synchonized”, as Ura-Aka tells them, and it’s Rika’s dream because she’s apparently the one with the stronger feelings. They crack their eggs at once, revealing two fans of the singer “Yu-Yu”. They were so fanatical, in fact, that when Yu-Yu committed suicide, they did the same. When Ai says “just like that?” Rika corrects her: their choice was neither easy nor casual. She knows, because she had a fan.

When the usual horde of Seeno Evils (which Rika calls “bystanders”) starts to swarm, Rika and Ai get to work smiting them with their weapons; Rika’s two swords resembling giant versions of the box cutter she used to cut herself. It’s determined the field of flowers is too wide open, so the four girls head to a lighthouse within the nearby woods. It’s there, while they have a couple minutes to catch their breath, that Ai asks Rika to tell her about Chiemi.

After hand-waving the scars Ai spots as “just a youthful whatever”, Rika starts out by explaining the formal and emotional context of a junior-idol handshake event. When you’re only mildly popular like her group was, the lines were shorter, which meant the same fans would line up over and over. Chiemi did this with Rika, who shook her sweaty hand many hundreds of times.

Eventually, Chiemi would give Rika money. Rika accepted it, and began to expect and even rely on it. Like the two Yu-Yu fans who had “sugar daddies”, Rika saw Chiemi as a rich patron. She later learned Chiemi was shoplifting and fencing stuff to make money to give her. When Chiemi started to think of them as friends, Rika ended their relationship, ripping Chiemi off like a Band-Aid and telling her she was too fat and ugly to be anything more than a fan and a wallet.

She never saw Chiemi again until her funeral, and was forever haunted by what she saw that day. In a gutting inversion of the geography of the handshake event, Rika and Chiemi have switched places. Peering into the open casket, Rika saw nothing but skin and bones, like a mummy. Knowing she’ll never be able to forget her if she tried, Rika took Chiemi’s hand one more time. Since then, she’s vowed to kill as many Seenos and Wonder Killers as it takes if it will bring her back.

The Seenos break through, leading to a frenetic chase up the spiraling lighthouse stairs. Ai stumbles, still processing Rika’s heartbreaking tale, but also acknowledging that while she receded into the Seenos at a crucial time due to fear, a part of her also resented Koito for never talking to her like friends should; the kind of talking she just experienced with Rika, which helped her understand better where she’s coming from and why she is the way she is.

She also looks on the Yu-Yu fangirls with a measure of envy. They were able to die with their idol. If Koito had asked her to die with her, she thinks she would have. But what’s done is done, and what was left unsaid remains so. Ai gets back on her feet and powers up her rainbow mace, striking a very cool heroine pose at the top of the steps and assuring Rika she’ll kill ’em all with her. Rika’s quizzical reaction is priceless.

From there, we meet the fangirls’ Wonder Killer, an older woman who stalked Yu-Yu and pushed her into suicide. Ai and Rika spring into action like the pair of valiant heroines they are. Rika frees the fans by slicing off the Killer’s arm, while Ai delivers a crushing blow to the face with her mace.

What follows is why it’s particularly hazardous to engage in boss fights before you’re aware of their special moves. The Killer unleashes a cloud of dark smoke that everyone is able to dodge except Rika, who is immediately paralyzed and soon turns to stone. Before her face petrifies, she wishes Ai good luck. It’s all up to Ai now: she must protect the petrified Rika and the helpless Yu-Yu fans while defeating the biggest toughest Wonder Killer yet.

Perhaps Ai and/or Rika haven’t considered that Aka and Ura-Aka are just using them. Or they’re fighting even while part of them is well aware they may end up getting cheated. But in either case they have no other choice. Now Ai’s mettle will be tested like never before. Hopefully she can get the job done and wake up beside Rika, with neither of them too seriously injured.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 09 – Look Over Here

In Failed Attempt #5,704 to get one over on Takagi-san, Nishitaka challenges her to a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors With “Look Over There” (Acchi Muite Hoi), where the winner tries to get the loser to look where they point.

As usual, Nishikata underestimates Takagi, who not only fails to look where he points when he does win, but gets him to look exactly where she wants, distracting him by asking if he has a crush on her.

After Hina accidentally determines that Yukari’s talent is that she has none, Nishikata arrives at class the next day to find Takagi is…a little off. The whole day goes by without her teasing him, and she doesn’t offer to walk home together, so Nishikata is worried. He may claim to dislike her teasing, but if it doesn’t feel right when she doesn’t, what does that say about his true feelings on the matter?

On his way home he spots Takagi’s bike by a shrine, and finds her sitting by herself, as she says it, “spacing out.” Turns out she had a fight with her mom, and was feeling down. But without even trying, Nishikata manages to cheer her up, with the very “mystery box” full of cotton with which he intended to scare her. She has a laugh, and when Nishikata moves to leave, she gently, warmly asks if he’d stay a little longer. Who is he to refuse?

When Kimura shows Nishikata a dumb trick through text message, Nishikata reconsiders trying it on Takagi, worried she’s still feeling down because of her mom. But she texts him, saying she made up and everything is fine now, so he proceeds to send her a photo of his arm that vaguely looks like a butt.

Takagi punishes Nishikata for such a lame attempt to trick her/gross her out, she sends a number of questions to him that if he’s not careful how he words his responses, it could read as him confessing his love. He tries to play that game by texting “how about a kisu”, referring to the fish whose name sounds like “kiss.”

Takagi utterly defeats him once more by sending him a video response of her lying in bed, earnestly responding “I love (them),” then sending a text correctly assuming he’s blushing, and daring him to send a pic of his face to prove he isn’t. Of course, as she heads downstairs for dinner and bids him goodbye until school tomorrow, she’s blushing too.

Cop Craft – 09 – The Cat’s Out of the (Garbage) Bag

As silly as I thought the Tilarna-Kuroi body swap is, if you ever find yourself in such a pinch, it helps to have a competent friend in Cecil Epps. Having missed the trash pickup, she calls the waste management company, and when they stonewall her, she plays the police card to get access.

Once at the processing center they find the exact truck that took the bag containing the crossbow, but they’re a little too late and it ends up the proverbial needle in a trash mountain. Still, they’ve narrowed down the location enough for Tilarna to go in and attempt to sense the crossbow’s latena, which she does.

Unfortunately, Tilarna-cat’s lack of thumbs means the crossbow ends up destroyed on the trash conveyor. But the good news is, destroying the artifact reverses the spell, and Tilarna returns to her own body, right when the smuggler has broken in and is trying to get her to cough up the crossbow.

Tilarna allows herself a few moments to jump for joy over getting her body back (as we all would), but the intruder saw her butt and everything else below the waist, so she beats the crap out of him, only sparing his life when Kei arrives, having been briefed by Cecil.

All’s well that ends well, though Tilarna would prefer if Kei were a little more upset about another man seeing her naked, again underscoring their…complex relationship.

With the body swap reversed, the episode trades Tilarna’s lack of pants for a school swimsuit, as Zimmer’s entire unit has a summer cookout at his place. It’s nice to see everyone unwinding after some hard cases—and for Kei’s extreme food snobbishness and bossiness exposed…honestly, he’s almost as bad as Zane!

The fun and relaxation is cut short when there’s breaking news report on the TV: mayoral candidate Nathan Kahns has been shot and killed. They determine the culprit, who had no criminal record, was being controlled by a wizard, possibly Zelada. With the “compromise” candidate in Kahns out, that leaves the Semanian Mozeleemay and the far-right Tourte, who wants to banish all Semanians.

That means this case will have long-term ramifications for all of San Teresa that could threaten the future of human-Semanian coexistance. There’s a small but telling example of the insidious ethnic strife inherent in this case when a beat cop calls a passing Tilarna a “damn alien” under his breath.

Kei hears that, and aggressively defends Tilarna, who is both embarrassed and grateful that Kei did it. Kei’s explanation about how it’s not the same when he uses slurs like “alien” (because it comes from familiarity and not hate) isn’t the strongest, but it is realistic behavior. But Tilarna may find herself turning the other cheek a lot more as they dig into this sensitive case.

Cop Craft – 08 – Meow What?!

After a really heartfelt and powerful episode in which Tilarna made and then promptly lost a friend, Cop Craft takes a week off—to be charitable—with an episode that’s little more than a vehicle for showing as much Tilarna fanservice as possible.

After Tilarna fells a small prop plane, scoring them a crate full of junk that vaguely smells of latena, Kei uses the bath first, then leaves Tilly to analyze the trinkets on her own, with only Kuroi to keep her company.

Kuroi gets a little crazy and starts running around, Tilarna gets stuck by a tiny crossbow bolt, and she and the cat switch bodies. Kei doesn’t pick up on this, only that Tilarna must be sick or something since he wakes up with her in his bed, scantily clad, and about to rub her face against his when the cat—actually Tilarna—comes between them. Kei lets who he thinks is Tilarna to sleep in, but he’s got shit to do, so heads off.

Tilarna manages to text Cecil, who arrives to find a huge mess, Tilarna missing pants, and a cat nodding and texting her. The crossbow just happened to slide into a trash can, and Kei is fastidious enough to take out said trash, so Cecil and Tilarna have to chase it down, but not before Tilkuroi tackles Cecil and knocks her out, further slowing them down.

Meanwhile Kei, seeking O’Neill, walks in on the aftermath of an epic party involving prostitutes, a goat, and habanero sauce, but which is neither here nor there. Honestly, this entire episode felt like it was on hallucinogens and a sedative that ground every action to a halt in an effort to make this a two-parter for some reason. That’s what’s most frustrating: shows can have the odd bad week, but this tomfoolery isn’t even over yet…

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 04 – Cat Ears, Banned Words, The First Text, French Invective

Citing that France is second only to Japan in cosplay popularity, Chika insists the StuCo welcome their new French exchange students while cosplaying. But when Kaguya and Miyuki put on cat ears, neither of them can resist smiling at the intolerable cuteness of the other.

Regardless, both don’t want the other knowing they find them cute, so they try to tough it out by grotesquely contorting their expressions in a futile effort to hide their mutual delight. To an outside observer like Chika, this looks like they’re glaring at each other with looks that could kill. Loser? Chika…for once!

The StuCo must organize a welcome party for the French, and two of them are needed to do all the necessary shopping, so Chika suggests the two losers of a “banned word” game will do the honors. This is a case of both Kaguya and Miyuki actually wanting to go shopping together, so it behooves them to let Chika win.

That suits Chika just fine, since she wants to win and pulls out all the stops to do so, demonstrating that while the Prez and Veep might look down on her as a second-rate intellect and airhead, she can more than handle herself in a banned-word game. She switches up her manner of speaking by rapping, and has the perfect words she knows Kaguya and Miyuki will readily say if properly stimulated: “love”, and “serious”, respectively.

With Kaguya and Miyuki both losing, their shopping date is set; they just have to agree when and where to meet, which requires one of them text the other for the first time. Kaguya’s maid (and audience surrogate) is somewhat exhausted by her charge’s beating around the bush (as are we all!) so she puts Kaguya in a corner by calling Miyuki then tossing the phone to her.

Miyuki’s extremely stern-sounding father answers, and eventually hands the phone over to his son, who is in the bathtub but doesn’t mind talking since his phone is waterproof. Once they’re talking, the tension fades away, but Kaguya makes the mistake of hanging up when Miyuki was in the middle of saying something else.

Kaguya curses herself while kicking in bed, but the result of her error is that Miyuki ends up being the one to text her first, telling her to stay warm and have a good night. Winner: Kaguya. Unfortunately, it pours so hard Shibuya Station floods, and the shopping trip is cancelled before it can begin. Still, Kaguya’s instinct to go regardless was correct: Miyuki was waiting for her, in the rain, by Hachiko…with his waterproof phone.

Thankfully, Miyuki doesn’t catch cold just in time for the French exchange students’ welcome party, so we get to watch him try to bluff about speaking French when he only skimmed a guidebook. Meanwhile, Kaguya merely pretended not to know French, only to turn around and speak fluently with one of the students. Even Chika, daughter of a diplomat, speaks French and other languages. Just full of surprises!

Little does Miyuki know the headmaster intended the party to be an important test to determine whether he’s truly worthy of leading the school. Betsy, the French StuCo veep and notoriously foul-mouthed master of verbal invective is sicced on Miyuki, and she proceeds to absolutely enrobe him in nasty French insults. Since Miyuki doesn’t speak a lick of French, it all bounces off!

The thing that isolated him ends up convincing the headmaster he does have what it takes, by enduring everything Betsy could through at him with placid “oui, ouis” in response. Even better, when Kaguya overhears Betsy, she comes to Miyuki’s defense, all while showing Betsy is no match for a properly scary Japanese high school girl.

Once the party has ended, Kaguya is ashamed of her nasty word-using, but Miyuki reminds her, he doesn’t speak French, so he didn’t hear any particulars of what she said. All he knows is she didn’t like how Betsy was talking to him, and fought on his behalf. For that, she has his gratitude. And so the episode closes with a win for both Kaguya and Miyuki.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 06 – Rainy Days are The Worst. Rainy Days are The Best.

After a cold open involving Hirotaka and Kabakura being photographed doing BL roleplay, we rewind to Narumi and Hirotaka both forgetting their umbrellas, despite being adults. Kabakura isn’t worried about any of his effects getting wet, so lends them his umbrella.

Hirotaka switches both the side he’s on (so she doesn’t get splashed by cars) and the position of his bag so smoothly, Narumi takes note of it in her inner monologue, and it’s further evidence he’s legit boyfriend material. Meanwhile a soaking wet Kabakura encounters Koyanagi and asks if she’ll share her umbrella, and rather than say he gave his to their friends, he says he forgot it, and gets doted on by a concerned Koyanagi.

For her part, Koyanagi professes her hatred for rainy days because her shoes get wet, but when she invites herself to Kabakura’s for dinner and he invites her to spend the night, she professes her love for rainy days. So basically, she and rain are like Asuka and Shinji.

Then we see why Hirotaka and Kabakura were posing like would-be lovers: to cheer up Narumi. Hirotaka can sense something’s up, but Narumi is being all coy with false smiles and “it’s nothing really, don’t worry about it.”

Finally, Hirotaka waits for her after work and continues to pursue the issue, going so far as to ask if he’s “so undependable” she can’t tell him what’s up. Finally, she relents, and it turns out to be nothing; a character in a manga she (and Kabakura) liked died.

If it were something genuinely troubling, would Narumi have told him? I like to think so, but even not, sometimes it pays to be persistent when someone is trying to spare you trouble or worry…and in this case, Hirotaka already was worried.

Finally, Christmas approaches. There’s talk of Santa and when Narumi, Hirotaka, and Naoya stopped believing in him. Nao, in a thin and much-less-warm-than-it-looks Santa costume handing out free coffee outside Starbucks, states that he never stopped believing in Santa; his definition of who it was simply shifted to anyone you love or are connected with who makes you happy. Narumi praises Nao as a saint.

Last year’s Christmas was The Worst for Koyanagi. Sure, she had plenty of time to make a wicked awesome costume, but the reason she had that time is that Kabakura spent the holiday working his ass off, and they didn’t even speak to each other until the new year had some.

This year Koyanagi assumes it will be more of the same, and that she simply has to make peace with the fact her boyfriend is a workaholic. But as office elevator doors close, Kabakura suddenly teleports from his desk to the doors, forcing them open and joining Koyanagi.

He ends up taking her to a super fancy and exclusive restaurant, the reservations for which he made over a half-year ago, and the cost of which he worked extra hours to afford. Koyanagi, appreciative of his efforts, presents him with the gift of a limited-edition event item.

Hirotaka and Narumi stay in for Christmas Eve, eating takeout, drinking beer and wine, and playing video games together. Both couples look like they’re having nice Christmases.