Summertime Render – 24 – Everything Mattered

Ryuu and Shinpei are able to catch Ushio before she falls to her death, and she’s reverted to a child since her hair wasn’t quite enough to fully restore her. She’s well and truly out of gas and can no longer fight, but has one more ace up her sleeve.

If Ryuu and Shinpei can buy her two minutes, she’ll turn herself into a hacking shotgun shell that, once fired at Shide, will sever his connection to Hiruko and delete him. While stalling that long won’t be easy, it’s far from impossible, especially as Shide is the loquacious type and enjoys toying with his prey.

Ryuu and Shinpei do battle with Shide, who in addition to being very annoying with his monologues is also a tough customer due to three centuries of honing his shadow skills. Neither of the boys can match him for pure creativity, and Shin can tell they’re not going to make it if they don’t do something drastic.

That something is having Ryuu possess Shide’s armor, depicted as Ryuu literally wrestling with a mass of mud with eyeballs, resulting in Shide being frozen in place. The downside is that now that Ryuu is out of Shin’s body, Shin can feel all the pain Ryuu was suppressing. He nearly passes out, and then his body starts to disintegrate.

However, all this rash, all-or-nothing action pays off, as Ushio is able to finish the hacking shell. This leaves Shin having to get to the shotgun two meters away before Shide (who isolates Ryuu and tosses him away in a glob of mud) can charge and kill him.

He won’t make it, and Ushio can’t move the shotgun as she’s the shell inside, but Haine can, and moves the gun right into Shinpei’s hands. Ushio helps him hold it steady, they get the shot off, and Shide finally, finally bites the dust. His plans to both cause and witness the end of the world come to nothing.

This leaves Shinpei, Ushio, Ryuu, Haine, and lil’ baby Hiruko, whom Ushio attempts to delete. Instead her and everyone else’s data is transported to the real world of over 300 years ago, the very day that the original Haine finds the dead whale that is Hiruko on the beach.

Realizing that Hiruko sent them back to break the cycle, Shinpei scares Haine off before she reaches the whale, and then Ushio deletes it. Baby Hiruko vanishes, finally able to rest. Haine vanishes shortly thereafter, hoping that she and Ryuu can be friends again somewhere, someplace.

That just leaves Shinpei and Ushio on the beach, and what we know must be one more tearful goodbye. Ushio is a shadow, after all, and with Hiruko gone she’s not far behind.

Shinpei wants to disappear with her, but she throws a characteristic “dummy” his way; the time they got to spend together in the past few days made her—made them both—so happy, but she wants him to live on. Not to mention everyone is waiting for Shinpei back home in 2018. Ushio vows to use her remaining power to transport him back to his proper time, but that’s not all she aims to do.

It would seem she’s inherited at least some of Hiruko’s power, with which she plans to overcome the loops and re-draw the summer. So as Shinpei ends up on the boat to the island, his face landing in Hizuru’s chest, maybe it’s not goodbye, but more of a see you later situation. We’ll find out in the finale.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 12 (Fin) – Weaving a New Tale

As predicted, Yume knocks it out of the park with her festival yukata and hair, but it’s her who wants a picture of Mizuto in his the second she sees it. Instead, he snaps a pic of her, and happens to know her phone’s password.

In her thoughts, Yume admits to feeling considerably lighter after having a good cathartic cry. Now she can hold hands with her stepbrother without embarrassment, and mimics Madoka’s treatment of Chikuma by helping “steady” Mizuto during the shooting game.

Just when the fireworks are about to start, Mizuto disappears, something Madoka says he always does around this time. All of his relatives have told her to make sure to look after him, like he wouldn’t be able to “survive” without someone watching over him. But as she volunteers to go find him, Yume celebrates how she’s been able to see all these new facts of Mizuto since becoming family.

When they were merely in puppy love and dating, she idolized and glorified him, projecting her ideal of a BoyfriendTM without looking deeper. Meanwhile, while sitting alone at a shrine, Mizuto muses about how he considered the world of books to be the true reality, and the outside world a mere illusion.

The first thing in the world that felt real was Ayai Yume, who was also the first person to evoke the same sentiment everyone had for him: that he would not survive if left alone. That’s why Ayai Yume still occupies that “slot” in his heart that even Isana could never hope to replace.

Yume finds Mizuto at the shrine, and the two have the mother of all passive-aggressive verbal duels with one another, all the while happy they were on the same wavelength. She recounts the phone call they had that he ended abruptly, and she gathered that he called her from this very shrine.

Yume also gathered that Mizuto knew her phone code because it’s 1027, the day of their first kiss, a day they both remember with fondness. Then Yume asks Mizuto why he went out with her, and he says it really just amounted to her finding a seat next to his in a game of musical chairs.

Sitting side by side as the fireworks begin—the fireworks they never got to see together until now—what initially stirred in Mizuto towards Yume stirs again. A tear falls down his cheek before Yume takes his face in her hands and kisses him.

It’s her second first kiss, and with it comes a vow that she, Irido Yume, will eventually win him over, defeating Ayai Yume for that single slot in his heart. The next morning, and then back at school, the two are back to their playfully adversarial selves.

The happiness of the past will never leave either of them, etched into their souls as it is, and they will never feel that particular novel happiness ever again. But that doesn’t matter, because now that they’re both a little older, wiser, honest, and clear-eyed they can now achieve a new happiness; weave a new tale together.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 11 – A Mess Under the Hood

Ahhh, is there anything nicer than a scene of two lovebirds talking on the phone just to hear each other’s voices? That’s how the episode starts, and it’s like being wrapped in a warm, fluffy blanket. So serene…but also so bittersweet. After the credits the Iridous have arrived at their relatives’ country house, and Yume meets Mizuto’s second cousin, who happens to be an absolute babe—a megane babe, at that!

When the fam hits the river for a barbecue, Madoka again compliments Yume’s figure and swimsuit, while also noting she’s “watched over” Mizuto since kindergarten. Mizuto is off in the shade reading and being antisocial, as always, but Yume learns that when his mom died, he and his dad must have endured a good bit of hardship, making her that much more determined to protect their new family by rejecting her feelings.

Later that night Yume enters the study of Mizuto’s late great-grandad’s study to tell him the bath’s ready, and finds him reading an old book entitled The Siberian Dancing Girl. Mizuto notes that it is his great-grandad’s autobiography of when he was interned in Siberia. It was the first book he ever read start to finish, and reads it every year he comes to his relatives.

He invites her to read it, and she takes him up on the offer, reading it through in one sitting. By the end, she’s in tears, and notices an old dried tear right next to her fresh one. She can’t help but feel closer to Mizuto, having now read the book that shaped him, which no one else but the two of them have ever read.

The next day, Madoka has laid out yukatas for the fireworks festival, and notices Yume sighing profusely. She quickly diagnoses it as Yume being in love with Mizuto and…Yume can’t necessarily refute that! Instead, she opens up a little to Madoka, who proves surprisingly deft at analyzing Yume’s whole deal, invalidating her feelings and trying to find excuses not to be with Mizuto

Madoka also figures the only thing for it is some direct action. To that end, she finagles things so Yume ends up alone in a relatively small, dark room with Mizuto for at least a half-hour. She figures that should be enough time for Yume to build up the courage to say what she wants to say and then say it.

At first, all Yume can do is look forlorn and say “Mizuto”, but in her head the words are streaming like the river she sat beside. She recalls the weight off her shoulders when they broke up, but she’s full of regret over things she never did that she should have, like call him over the summer, or sharing Christmas and Valentines with him.

It turns out, Mizuto doesn’t have to hear Yume say any of these things. It’s all in her face, and in the tears that start to fall. So he calls her as Ayai—which was just her old last name but sounds so much more intimate when he says it—and says that just this once, they can go back in time. So they embrace, and just hold one another until it’s dark out. They’re not pretending, they’re just being two people, not collections of ideals.

When Yume tells him how she figured Madoka was his first love, he immediately shoots that down; he never had feelings for her. He then tosses a jab at her—something about having so much good for her “on paper” but being a “mess under the hood.” He then says her nose is running, and she reacts, only for him to be kidding. That makes her laugh, which allows him to tell her who his actual first love was without saying it. He just says she loved to laugh. She still does!

I’m officially convinced that this show suffers from a terrible title, especially the English translation. All it does is tell you the surface scenario: step mom, daughter, ex. This is about that, but it’s also about so much more, about everything that came before that, and has managed to make something so wacky on paper incredibly moving and compelling under the hood.

GODDAMN TEARJERKER™ CERTIFIED

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 10 – Lapping the Competition

Yume and Mizuto are home alone in the middle of a typhoon, reading alone in their respective rooms, when Yume encounters a cockroach, which renders her room no longer habitable. The two top students in their grade, neither of whom are particular fans of bugs, decide the only option is to sleep together in his bed.

While they start out back-to-back, Yume eventually shifts positions in her sleep, and when Mizuto wakes up and rolls over, he finds himself closer to Yume’s face than he’s been in a long time (not counting that recent time on the couch). He rolls back over, saying he has no room for “lingering feelings” in their new life together.

The next morning, Yume and Mizuto unconsciously act like a couple going through a rough patch, leading their parents to make that observation. Yume’s mom also suggests Mizuto buy a swimsuit for the upcoming family trip to Mizuto’s dad’s riverside hometown.

For their parents’ sake, the former couple proceeds with the swimsuit-shopping trip, and while Yume tries to “disguise” herself with the same glasses she wore in middle school, the fact she’s wearing her new, more form-fitting style would certainly give her away to, say, Akatsuki.

Mizuto waits outside the changing area, somehow not expecting Yume to show him the cute frilly pink bikini she’s trying on…but she does. When he says it merely looks “good” on her, “he thinks”, she asks him to say something nicer, and so…he compliments her devotion to her family.

On their way home they pass by the very quiet side street where they kissed for the first time, at the very same time of day. When the wind knocks Yume’s hat off, Mizuto naturally lunges toward her, resulting in the two ending up in a very similar position to that magical day.

Yume even closes her eyes and prepares her lips for another kiss, seemingly overcome by the atmosphere…but Mizuto hesitates. Later at home, Mizuto and Yume converse awkwardly, trying to keep up appearances, leading their folks to remark how they’re like “a couple working up the nerve to pop the question”.

While it seems like their parents are oddly perceptive, the fact is neither Mizuto’s dad nor Yume’s mom have any idea about their real past. That’s probably for the best, as considering how nice they both seem, it would pain them to know end to know their marriage inadvertently put their kids in such a strange, even cruel situation.

Speaking of cruel, when Isana comes over for the umpeenth time during summer break to watch a movie with Mizuto, she reclines on the couch, rests her head in Mizuto’s lap as he strokes her hair. They’re a picture of a couple destined for a fifty year-plus marriage, so comfortable Isana thinks nothing of scratching around her bra area in his presence.

After the movie Isana gets up, but continues to monopolize Mizuto by engaging in a lively critical conversation in which Yume cannot hope to participate. When Mizuto asks for tea without saying please, Yume serves him some…in her mugwhich Isana immediately identifies as an indirect kiss.

The movie and discussion cause Mizuto to suddenly nod off, but rather than falling into Isana’s lap, his head falls into Yume’s. Isana briefly considers kissing him since the opportunity is there, but as it would be her first kiss and Yume is right there, she wisely thinks better of it. How horny is this girl?!

Looking down at the sleeping Mizuto in her lap, she realizes why he hesitated, both when they were in the same bed and when they almost kissed in their first kiss place: they both feel the same longing for the way things were, and wanting to go back to those times, but believing it not worth destroying the new life they have together.

Later, Yume’s mom wants details about what’s up with Mizuto and Isana (who earlier said she wouldn’t mind being fuck-buddies or FWB with him). Isana indulges her mom, who then tells Yume she can’t let Mizuto leave her behind; she needs to find a boyfriend for herself.

While lying in bed contemplating her mom’s words about getting a boyfriend, Yume says, out loud, that she doesn’t see herself with anyone but Mizuto, which surprises her. So far, the two have maintained the position that they can’t go back to the way things were, but that’s increasingly easier said than done.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E08 – Boars, Stars, and Bears

While the apartment is now repaired (and the kitchen faucet no longer drips!), the MgRonald remodeling isn’t done yet, so Maou needs some new temp work. That notorious NEET Urushihara brings this up is indeed the height of hypocrisy, but he’s not wrong.

When Chiho’s great aunt is injured by a boar at the Sasaki family farm in Nagano, all the young temp workers quit out of fear of attacks. Chiho’s mom drives her, Maou, Ashiya and Urushihara to the farm to help out with the harvest. Maou is happy see sides of Chiho he hasn’t seen before.

Maou & Co are overwhelmed by the sheet vastness of both the Sasaki farmlands and their spacious house (you can’t even see the stairs from the entrance!), but Chiho’s aunt Hinako eases them in with some lighter work, after which her uncle takes them to a hot spring to unwind. There, Chiho suddenly feels something clutch her leg; it’s Alas Ramus!

Turns out Emi and Suzuno tagged along, and it’s clearly not a simple coincidence. That said, when Alas calls Emi and Maou “Mama” and “Papa”, Emi and Suzuno have to spin quite the yarn about long-term babysitting and Alas forgetting her parents’ faces (which is obviously a real thing that happens in families where the parents have to work a ton of hours).

That night, Maou gets his wish to see another side of Chi-chan as she visits him in the night dressed more casually than he’s used to (though he seemingly forgets he saw her in a bikini during the beach arc). They go on a walk, her marvels at how many stars are in the sky.

Chiho tells him about Emi’s mixed feelings about him, Ashiya, and Urushihara doing farm work, since the Demon Army destroyed her hometown and family’s farmland. Chiho reiterates her desire for everyone she loves to live in happiness.

Maou doesn’t get much sleep, as Emi gets the three lads up at 4:30 AM sharp (though Urushihara clings to his futon and gets Emi’s fist in return). Everyone else is already up and eating a hearty breakfast prepared with help from Suzuno.

Because of Emi’s experience harvesting eggplants and Maou’s lack of same, the two are paired up for a greenhouse, where Emi explains why vegetables have to be picked in the morning rather than the afternoon, and before they over-ripen.

Emi also tells him she’s still mad and not ready to forgive him for what he and his army did to her home, but if he were to start regretting his deeds, her anger and hatred might subside…if only “the length of a flea’s turd”, which is a hell of a withering turn of phrase!

After working all morning Maou and the lads get a siesta in, but Maou and Ashiya want to still be useful. They escort Chiho’s baby cousin Hitoshi to see her mom in the fields, since he’s being fussy. I love the little scene of Maou, Chiho, Ashiya, and the little ones getting along, and Hitoshi pulling Ashiya’s hair.

Unfortunately, the good vibes are suddenly extinguished by the arrival of a starving black bear that’s come down the mountain looking for food. The group gets down low and tries to quietly get away, but Hitoshi gets unsettled and starts to cry, alerting the bear to their presence…and that’s how the episode ends.

With a “civilian” among them in Aunt Hinako, dealing with the bear through supernatural means (like, say, Alas turning into a sword) is probably out. Still, I can’t imagine the bear will succeed in attacking anyone. More likely another Sasaki will arrive and scare the bear off.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 09 – Bittersweet Symphony

This episode, which finally fully chronicles the height and eventual fall of Mizuto and Yume, begins simply, with the two sharing a tender kiss without fanfare during the golden hour on a quiet street. The look they share after said kiss may just be the only time in the entire episode that they are truly on the same wavelength with one another.

When Yume is invited to Mizuto’s house, room, and bed (to sit on) when his parents aren’t home, she gets understandably excited, only for the two to spend hours reading a book together. It’s pleasant, but it’s less than Mizuto hoped for; she was ready to take the next step. So was Mizuto. But it just…didn’t happen. And it never would.

The first sign of the couple drifting apart is when they find themselves in separate classes for the third year of middle school. They still meet in their treasured library after school, and make a pinky promise to make wonderful memories for Christmas and Valentine’s. But then Yume gradually opens up and makes friends in her class.

Mizuto is irked by her newfound popularity, and when they are together, all she talks about is her friends this or her friends that. Feeling like they’re drifting away from each other hurts, so he hurts her back by snapping at her. He fully prepares to apologize the next day, but when Yume first sees him in the library, he’s chatting with another girl…in her chair.

His apology goes right through her, as she feels he betrayed her in the special place where they met and shared so many memories. And that bitter memory of seeing him with that other girl haunts him. It’s just a fight couples always have, but they let it fester and see less and less of each other.

When they finally encounter one another, it’s by chance at a bookstore, and Mizuto suggests, and Yume agrees, that they should make up and put the rancor behind them. But it’s just words. Mizuto is still hung up on being accused of cheating, while Yume is vexed by how far ahead he’s walking.

Once inseparable, the two fall completely out of sync, and their relationship falls off the rails. Yume thinks of inviting Mizuto to the festival where he found her, but fails to send the invite text and goes alone, hoping things will just work out like they did a year ago, even though she knows they won’t. Then their one-year anniversary comes and goes with nary a text from him.

The Christmas and Valentine’s memories they promised to share become exercises in bitter solitude, as both Mizuto and Yume remain incommunicado for those holidays. Finally, when graduation comes along, Mizuto quietly suggests, and Yume agrees, that they should break up.

At that point it felt less like and end and more like a “liberation.” He couldn’t deny his affection for Yume, but couldn’t deny the building resentment either. Little things turned into big things and finally the only thing: pain and anguish. The rest, we know: their parents get married a few months later, and they are introduced to each other as stepsiblings.

Fast-forward back to the present, where Yume is helping herself to one of Mizuto’s many many books, and happens to land on the same one they read together the first time she entered that room. The two reveal to one another in reminiscing that they both had the same intentions that day: to take their relationship to the next step.

You could say that day was really the beginning of the end, since it led to “aged plagued with regret” for Mizuto and “wasted time feeling she was undesirable” for Yume. And yet, thanks to their parents, a new beginning was written; one that allows them to reflect on their past missteps while seeing each other in a new light.

It was powerful and affecting watching their bittersweet first relationship crash and burn so utterly. From the cozy warmth of their (presumably) first kiss to the stark chill of their breakup scene, it was a harrowing roller coaster of a tale that added fresh context, richness, and gravitas to their present-day dynamic.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 08 – Ain’t Nuthin’ but a G-Cup

Higashira Isana may have been rejected by Mizuto, but that doesn’t stop her from teasing and flirting with him. She also wants to see his book collection, ostensibly to see which light novel sparked his sexual awakening. Yume and Akatsuki take her shopping to give her a makeover from her cozy, “lame” style, but because of her killer bod everything she tries on is a bit too alluring.

Akatsuki suggests Irina adopt Yume’s more lose and flowy style to soften her silhouette. This leads Yume to try something new, and to suspect that this was Akatsuki’s intent all along. Yume also recalls that her present style was dictated by what she thought Mizuto liked when they were dating.

When Isana shows up in Yume’s old style, Yume serves as a “chaperone”, and witnesses first hand Isana and Mizuto’s usual rapport. Mizuto insists he only treats her like any guy friend, but to Yume it looks like he never actually rejected Isana and they’ve been dating all along. Isana even reveals the reason/excuse for Mizuto putting on her socks: reaching down with her bust is a pain.

When Yume shows her to the restroom, she learns Isana still very much likes Mizuto, both as a friend and as a boy, and probably always will, despite the rejection. Isana also voices her anxiety about Mizuto making other friends who might usurp her special place in his heart.

The parallel to Yume here is all too clear. Here is a girl who, like her, became close to Mizuto through books, and soon became the most important person in her life. Mizuto also notices these parallels as he sees Isana home. He remembers having as much fund with Yume back in middle school just quietly reading together as he and Isana here.

That leads him to wonder what might’ve happened if he and Yume had never become a couple, but simply close friends like him and Isana. He concludes that it’s pointless to hypothesize, since neither of them are quite like Isana.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 07 – Irido de Bergerac

In one of her many “youthful indiscretions” of her middle school years, we watch Yume twist herself into knots trying and failing to deliver a love letter to Mizuto on the last day before summer break. The more the day dwindles away, the more anxious she gets, and yet she’s unable to muster the courage, which sends her into a spiral of self-loathing.

When she is finally able to present him with the letter, in the seeming eternity it takes for him to read it she’d rather be anyone or anywhere else. But then his answer to whether he’ll be her boyfriend is an cordially enthusiastic yes, all’s right in the world again. In fact, it’s better than ever.

That Yume knows what it’s like to waver and torture oneself before confessing so someone she likes, and Akatsuki probably knows it too, they (or rather mostly Akatsuki) lure Higashira Isana into a program by which they can vicariously experience that feeling once more.

They know Isana likes Mizuto (Akatsuki demonstrates it quite efficiently with a video of him sleeping) but they also soon learn that since she’s never been in love before (something they find nostalgic) she has no idea how to proceed, even if she agrees she’d like to give it a go.

And so Yume and Akatsuki hide behind the stacks in the library while Isana tries to communicate her desire to advance beyond mere friends, only for her efforts to go completely unnoticed by Mizuto. When she tries to get closer, he shifts away, saying he likes his personal space. But when he calls him on his threat to “unleash hell” he tussles her hair, then he gets her to comb it, so she does manage to get closer.

Throughout this process, Yume is understandably a bit worried about this succeeding, because just like Isana has never had feelings for someone before Mizuto, Yume has never experienced having an ex with a new girlfriend, let alone the fact they’re now stepsiblings. While on a nighttime call, Akatsuki says something we don’t hear about why Mizuto would have a girlfriend that invokes a strong reaction from Yume.

The big day of Isana’s after-school confession comes, and Akatsuki and Yume are right there with her hiding out of sight when Mizuto arrives. Isana struggles to get the words out, but he tells her to simply go at her own pace and he’ll connect the dots.

He notably allows her to speak her entire piece rather than cut her short, but when she does say she likes him and wants to be his girlfriend, his rejection is swift and brutal, even if it’s almost as delicate and eloquent as her confession was.

He also uses a lot of words to basically say that he likes someone else, or rather that someone else occupies the one and only slot that exists beside him. As Isana confessed, you could see Yume squirming in her hiding spot, possibly letting things progress so far, but it turns out she needn’t have worried; if there’s any chance dating Isana would make Yume cry, Mizuto won’t allow it.

Yume almost feels bad for him placing someone who isn’t even his girlfriend anymore, and probably never will be again, in such a vaunted position and not entertaining any replacements. But we go back to her phone call with Akatsuki and hear what was said: Mizuto wouldn’t have a girlfriend unless they were someone he truly, deeply wanted by his side.

As we learn, Isana quickly recovers from her heartbreak and she and Mizuto go back to being library buds, which utterly shocks both of her love coaches. But while they don’t get her, a part of them probably also envies her ability to turn the page and move forward. As someone in the same family and home as her ex-boyfriend, that’s a luxury Yume doesn’t have.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 06 – Arbitrary with the Friend Bar

Yume was always at the top of her class until one day her position was usurped by Mizuto. She was devastated, and studied without sleep to beat him at the next round of exams—only for it to look like he couldn’t care less when she did. But when they met in the library, she learned that the rivalry wasn’t in her head; that he was only pretending not to care, and he really was watching her. That was when she fell in love with him.

It’s a desperately sweet story, just the latest in a string of them that make one wonder what was really so bad about these two dating (though to be fair we haven’t seen much of the “dark times” that ultimately led to their breakup). In any case, Yume is reminiscing about class rankings because she and Mizuto find themselves locked in a new battle as high schoolers for the top spot. When she sees him taking it easy in the living room, she assumes he’s taking her lightly.

Then the first day of exams passes. With her self-grading she determines she probably got a 96, which is good but still leaves the window open for Mizuto. She sneaks into his room to try to find out how he did, and is so outraged that he left the last few questions blank that she abandons all pretense and angrily confronts him in front of their mom, who has to stop her from striking Mizuto.

Mizuto tells her that yes, he did skip those questions, because as she’s so fond of saying, he doesn’t care what anyone says or thinks, so it’s fine if she has the top spot. Of course, Yume doesn’t want it that way, and storms out of the room in tears. The next two days of exams pass with her trying to focus on her studies and not her jerk of a “little” brother.

When the scores are revealed, Yume finds she’s ranked second below Mizuto, and momentarily has an existential crisis. After all, she’s believed up until now that a key facet of her high school “rebirth” is maintaining that top spot, and anything less would be failure.

But when her friends treat her no differently, and in fact congratulate her for almost beating Mizuto, she realizes that the top spot wasn’t a defining characteristic upon which her entire high school life relied. In short: she’s going to be fine.

Yume assumes that Mizuto beat her to send her that message, and she’s grateful for it, and for his ability to understand her when no one else does. That said, when she races to the library to talk to him, he’s already in a conversation with another girl, one very much like the kind they’d engage in in middle school.

This girl is Higashira Isana, voiced by Tomita Miyu, and she and Mizuto get along like lobster and garlic butter. Even Mizuto is somewhat astounded by just how beautifully the two of them click, completely comfortable being themselves around one another. Isana, who prefers to read barefoot, even asks Mizuto to put her socks on her, and he does it, because what are friends for?!

Foot play aside, Isana is as uncomfortable around others as she is comfortable around Mizuto, as evidenced when the two of them encounter Yume and Akatsuki after school. Isana reverts to a six-year-old hiding behind her dad, but Mizuto, irked by this whole enterprise, heads home without comment.

Yume figures she must be jealous, but considers that wrong now that they’re no longer dating and stepsiblings. So she pretends everything’s fine, and then over-compensates by being friendly, kind, and thoughtful to him at every turn. This, of course, vexes Mizuto to no end.

He brings it up to his new bestie Isana, who suggests that everyone a set of criteria for how they think their life should go, and when that’s threatened, some, like her, get up in arms. When she admits she’s never been one to go with the flow, that triggers in Mizuto the problem: he’s been going with the flow too much around Yume. He needs to be more active and sincere in their interactions.

That said, he doesn’t miss an opportunity to tease Yume by arriving in her room in a fetching vest, drawing near, feeling her pulse, and noting how it’s double the normal heart rate. Yume was just talking about how forgetting about Mizuto made her life easier, only for that house of cards to come crashing down.

Instead of continuing to go along with her “unreasonably calm, sincere, and understanding” attitude, Mizuto asks her what’s up. To her credit, Yume tells the truth: she thinks she feels a little jealous of Isana. When she in turn asks why he was bothered by her not acting snide and sarcastic, he tells her it felt as if what they went through in the past didn’t happen.

Being honest with each other helps Yume and Mizuto make up, and the next time Yume meets Isana, she greets her as if she was Mizuto’s big sister. Isana comes out of her shell a little and shakes her hand, and the air is cleared vis-a-vis Mizuto and Isana, namely that they’re just friends. That said, the more Yume and Akatsuki see them interact, the closer they seem.

At the halfway point of the series, I’m happy about the introduction of Isana. I like her; she’s weird and cool, Tomita gives her a husky lilt that’s a nice contrast to the squeakier girls, and her chemistry with Mizuto is sublime. I’m looking forward to their future interactions.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 05 – The Moon Is Beautiful

One night, before they started going out, Mizuto and Yume were in adjacent rooms on a middle school class trip. When they both looked out their windows at the full moon, Mizuto said Tsuki ga kirei desu ne, which means “The moon is beautiful, isn’t it?” but can also be an artful way of saying “I love you”. It’s a night Mizuto still hasn’t forgotten…even though it must’ve been more than what, two years ago?!

Fast-forward to the present, and Mizuto is being a big ‘ol jerk about not wanting to go shopping with Yume for Mother’s Day, even though they had plenty of fun on their date the other day. Yume convinces him to come with a fetching ” ooting” outfit, and when they’re on a crowded train and a bump causes Mizuto to pin her between the side of the car and him, she tells him not to pull away, as it will only keep happening with every bump.

The two settle on a bouquet of carnations, which is a pretty standard go-to Mother’s Day gift. But their mom is so happy to receive them that she runs away in tears. As we know, these are good kids, and making their mom/stepmom happy makes them happy. Mizuto may put out Ayanokouji vibes, but he’s nothing like that sociopath!

That evening, Yume notices the door at the end of the hall is open a crack – a beam of the setting sun gleams through, lighting motes of dust in the air. She finds Mizuto inside, praying to his mother’s shrine. Mizuto’s mom died when he was very small, such that her shrine photo is is only visual link to her.

Not only aware this is no time for sniping but genuinely wanting to support Mizuto during a lonely moment, she cuddles up next to him, like a “big sister” should. That’s when Mizuto says that since their parents are newlyweds, they should give them a night alone sometime. That of course means the two of them would have to spend the night…somewhere else.

Yume turns all sorts of shades of pink and red as Mizuto runs by what’s possible and not possible, even admitting to looking into love hotel rates. But since they both know that might just be taking things a bit far considering their history, Mizuto instead asks Kawanami if he can spend the night at his place.

Yume, in turn, can stay at Minami’s…because Minami and Kawanami are not only childhood friends as we all suspected, but also next-door neighbors. Due to that prodigious amount of time so close to one another, they’re basically more siblings than Yume and Mizuto.

Kawanami has a little fun with the paper-thin walls by acting like Mizuto is talking about Yume’s boobs (causing her to attack the wall), while Mizuto gets payback by reading Kawanami’s elementary school report on wanting to be a police officer so he can marry Minami (causing her to attack the wall).

Kawanami and Minami’s easy, lived-in rapport carries over when they both independently pick the same family restaurant to take Mizuto and Yume to dinner. Kawanami and Minami each know exactly what the other is going to order, while the two even have a shared laugh at the stebsiblings’ expense when they both show they have no idea about soda fountain protocol.

After dinner, Minami gets all cuddly with Mizuto about tutoring her in Japanese, but Mizuto shuts her down by declaring that Yume is the far more appropriate choice for a tutor since she “works so hard” for her grades while he puts in very little effort.

Later that night, Kawanami is bored that Mizuto is just studying, so he texts Minami, which again seems like a common occurrence. They may say they have nothing to do with each other, but they’re fooling absolutely no one—including themselves.

Kawanami and Miniami are so in sync they even fall asleep at the same time, while Mizuto and Yume go out on their respective balconies to admire a full moon. When Mizuto hears Yume on the other side he peeks over to find her in cute frog jammies Minami “made” her wear.

Then Yume says “Tsuki ga kirei desu ne”, confirming she too remembers that night of the school trip when he dropped that “pretentious come-on”.  That said, she basically admits that was when she started liking him. Mizuto says there’s no point in telling him that now, but it’s clear he was happy she remembered that night as vividly as he did.

They both ponder whether all the time Kawanami and Minami have spent together “means” anything, being so close together for so long. As for the two of them, Mizuto believes it isn’t likely their folks will split up, so they’re “stuck as stepsiblings until the end of time.” While he tries to make that sound like the same “hell” Kawanami claims living beside Minami to be, both of them are vastly overstating their torment.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E03 – Family Matters

With the mission of keeping a smile on Alas Ramus’ face, Maou and Emi play the roles (in Emi’s case, reluctant role) of mama and papa for the mysterious child. They buy her a hat to keep the sun off her face, one of the countless things parents must think about when caring for their child.

Unbeknownst to either Maou or Emi is the fact that Suzuki, Chiho, and Ashiya are tailing them. Suzuki wants to see Emi’s face while she’s on a date with a man, Chiho is curious and a little worried, and Ashiya just wants to make sure Maou doesn’t spend too much.

Alas seems particularly drawn to bright colors, such that watching a colorful power ranger show suddenly activates a purple crest on her forehead and makes her drowsy. Maou and Emi take her out of the show, and while Maou goes to obtain a cold drink, a mysterious woman in white appears, seemingly heals Alas, and disappears before Maou returns.

With Alas feeling better, Maou and Emi take her up into the Ferris Wheel. Suzuki and Ashiya follow, but Chiho is held up when she helps an old lady with the ticket machine, so the other two end up nice and cozy in what Suzuki describes as “a private room in the sky”. Suzuki x Ashiya shippers: it’s time to eat!

When Emi tells Maou to spill the beans about what’s going on with Alas, he tells her how the day his clan and parents were slaughtered, a passing angel took pity on him and saved his life. To Emi, this means an angel was indirectly responsible for letting the Demon Lord rise to power and conquer Ente Isla.

Alas, he surmises, could be an incarnation of Yesod, one of the sephiroth, or cosmoplastic orbs of the Tree of Life. That means Alas is beyond angels and demons, but in her own special category. Whatever she is, she needs to be cared for, and Maou and Emi do a good job throughout the day.

However, that day is interrupted by unwanted visitors: Urushihara and Suzuno are captured by Gabriel and his heavenly regiment. Gabe has a simple ultimatum for Maou and Emi: hand over both Alas Ramus and the sacred sword. Neither are interested in handing over either.

When Gabe resorts to brute force, Chiho appears and shields Maou from further harm, bowing and shedding tears on his and Alas’ behalf. Disinclined to look or sound like the “bad guy” (he is an angel after all), Gabriel decides to withdraw for the time being.

However, he promises he and his heavily heavies will be back first thing in the morning to collect the child and the sword. With that threat looming, Maou asks Emi to stay at their place tonight, an offer that flusters both her and Chiho. Time for a sleepover!

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 04 – Staying Put

Yume cannot possibly fathom why Mizuto asked her out on a date, but at no point does she mind that it’s happening, even telling herself it’s a healthy part of any stepsibling relationship. She’s shocked to see Mizuto in a fetching vest and with product in his hair, giving off “intellectual yet charming young man with baggage” vibes, just her type.

But while Mizuto isn’t playing a prank on Yume, his intentions aren’t romantic. Rather, Kawanami convinced him that the best way to make Minami give up her fixation on marrying into their family is to show her a couple “madly in love”. Kawanami and Minami are watching him at all times.

As the “jerk trying to win back the ex he broke up to”, Mizuto feels stiff an awkward…and why wouldn’t he? He’s being watched and all his actions and words are informed by that fact. Despite this, Kawanami assures him he and Yume look like a real couple. And while Yume is confused why Mizuto is being so nice and sweet, she knows she likes it, and it’s preferable to their more usual prickly dynamic.

But it also reminds Yume of a time she’s not proud of, when she worked up the courage to ask Mizuto out, only to get lost when they went to a festival. She also gets lost at the aquarium in the present. But while she’d never felt so low as she did that night, she also scarcely ever felt as good as she did when he arrived with a can of royal milk tea, telling her she doesn’t have to be afraid because she can always rely on him.

As they continue their date, this time acting more naturally (that is, more nerdy) towards one another, it’s Mizuto’s turn to reminisce about when things started to go so wrong in their relationship. When one by one, his love for things she’d say and do turned to hatred. He feels now that they’re freed from their romantic bond, they have no obligation to love, nor reason to hate. He believes they’re in a healthier place.

That said, the date ends with Yume heading home first still having no clue why Mizuto chose such a “punishment”, but still had a good time. As for Minami, she apologizes for sneaking into his house, but doesn’t give up on trying to marry him after all. Well, at least it was a fun date!

When Mizuto comes home, it’s Yume’s turn to issue a punishment, and he has him pose for photos (…a lot of photos) while reading one of her favorite books while still in his handsome date garb. Her final request is for him to come from behind and whisper something in her ear. He obliges, and whispers “I’ve caught you”. All she can say in return is “You’ve caught me.”

Oh, and Minami and Kawanami used to date, and he ended up hospitalized! So we’re dealing with not one but two pairs of exes. But a date that was ostensibly meant to slow Minami’s roll ended up stirring up a lot of old feelings for Yume and Mizuto. The hatred that built up before their breakup has clearly subsided a great deal.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 03 – Lettuce and Cheese

Yume looks back with no small degree of unfondness upon her “old” self—from six whopping whole months ago—as an “exceptionally introverted” girl who would save everything Mizuto gave her in a small lockable treasure box. And yet here she is in the present, with Mizuto’s boxers in her hands, and she can’t help but smell them.

Knowing that if he ever caught wind of this he’d make her submit to being his little sister, she waits until the wee hours of the night for him to go to bed so she can return the drawers. But before she can open his door, he opens it…holding her bra. Looks like she wasn’t the only one charmed by the distant past.

To their credit, Yume and Mizuto have a seat in the living room and discuss things logically. They both have the exact same excuse for how they came upon each other’s undergarments, but also both agree that absconding with underwear no matter the circumstances, isn’t appropriate sibling behavior. As such, they agree that each of them gets a free demand of the other—within social norms.

Mizuto declares that within their home they’re to be perfect brother and sister, but outside said walls, they can do whatever they plase. Yume soon learns what he means when he spots him at a MgRonald chatting with a cute girl with black hair and black-framed glasses—virtually the “old her”! She goes to Akatsuki with this information, who can’t deny that Mizuto might just have what it takes to sweep a shy girl off her feet.

The plot thickens when Yume comes home to find a pair of girl’s loafers in the genkan. Assuming the girl is with Mizuto in his room, Yume calls him to ask him to run an errand—”get lettuce and cheese”—and hears footsteps leaving the house. But when she approaches his door, he’s in his room, and doesn’t know of any girl.

…Except he does. One day he was approached in the library by the black-haired girl, who immediately asked him out with the ultimate goal of marriage. She then reveals she’s actually Akatsuki in disguise, and that she wants to marry Mizuto primarily so she can become Yume’s sister, and do sisterly things with her … like bathe her and apply lotion to her body.

Honestly I had no idea Akatsuki had this in her, but when Mizuto calls her childhood friend Kawanami, he is told that this is how Akatsuki is: once she’s infatuated with something she won’t let it go. I agree with Mizuto that Kawanami saying Akatsuki doted so intensely on a previous boyfriend in middle school that he ended up hospitalized is far-fetched, the bottom line is that Mizuto doesn’t like hassles.

He wants to make it as clear as possible as soon as possible to Akatsuki that he’s not interested in marriage. To that end, he decides to cash in his demand of Yume, and asks her to accompany her on a date tomorrow. Yume is no doubt both surprised and flattered. After all, Mizuto is an idiot but he’s her idiot, and seeing him with fake old her was a blow that this invitation helps to mitigate.

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