Tsuki ga Kirei – 05

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tsuki ga Kirei – 04

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 07

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Erika and the episode waste no time after Kyoya’s latest apathetic remarks; Erika approaches him cordially with the decision that she’s no longer a Wolf Girl, and he no longer has to pretend to be her boyfriend. Yes: Erika dumps Kyoya. It’s a command performance for both, but as Erika later cries to herself on the way home, it’s clear her love for him isn’t all gone, nor is Kyoya as okay with this development as he seems.

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A bit of residual anguish is to be expected, but the next day Erika is determined to move forward. She basks in Yuu’s kindness and accepts his invitation to hang out at an arcade, under the condition San can come along. The whole time, San notes how hyper and happy she is, almost like she’s forcing things — and she is. But Erika’s attitude is to be expected of someone who has just had a huge weight lifted off her shoulders.

She’s free: free from torture and verbal abuse; free to choose someone anew, who really cares for and will treasure her. Only…she makes clear to San she’s not sure Yuu is that someone. San warns Erika she can’t lead Yuu on too long, otherwise she’s no better than Kyoya. Yuu needs an answer ASAP, even if he’s not forcing her for one.

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At school, Erika and Yuu can’t help but see Kyoya with other girls, but his black prince persona is leaking out of him, as he’s frustrated with his loss of Erika and with those girls so eagerly presenting themselves before him to take it out on. Kyoya seeing Erika with Yuu, whom he dismisses as a ‘wimp’ and a ‘huge step down’, pisses Kyoya off even more.

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Yuu arranges a White Day date with Erika at the aquarium (ZOMG axolotls!), where they proceed have a ton of fun…while Kyoya lays on his couch at home, defeated. Kakeru (who along with his crew looks like a bunch of disguised shinigami from Bleach) spots Erika having fun with another guy and calls Kyoya in a panic, like the good friend that he is, to ask him what his fucking problem is.

Kyoya hangs up on him. It was so easy to mercilessly berate a girl who genuinely cared about him; now that she’s gone, and Kyoya finds that dispite his assertions to the contray, he genuinely cares about her, suddenly he has a far tougher road ahead to fix things. Yet there he lies on the couch. Who is truly the ‘wimp’ here, hmmmm?

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I said last week that Yuu’s syrupy-sweet, unconditional, suffocating niceness would grow old for Erika quick, and not just because she’s used to being mistreated, and it does. Because of that past pain, she desperately wants to fall for Yuu, but it’s just not going to happen as long as Kyoya still draws breath, cad that he is. Not only that, Erika just isn’t the type of person to fall for Yuu. She thrives in the battle, and giving up on Kyoya would mean surrender and retirement.

For that reason, Erika does the right thing and promptly, calmly explains why she can’t return Yuu’s feelings. Yuu may seem a but over-yielding and understanding here, but let’s keep in mind just how delicate and worrying a guy he is. He knew this was a long shot all along, and has no ill will to Erika. If anything, their brief fling was an enlightening experience for him, which will pay dividends in his future dealings with both people and girls.

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It’s worth noting that the popular fountain that’s said to increase a couple’s love doesn’t actually activate or light up until Kyoya happens to show up, with as close a tail between his legs as he can muster, which translates to him possessively grabbing Erika by the arm and dragging her away from Yuu, even though there’s no call for that beyond saving face. Yuu warns him that this time he’d better ‘treasure her properly’, something Kyoya doesn’t respond to, but perhaps understands now.

When Erika demands to explain his actions, he silences her with their first kiss, saying “No more ‘Whys’.” But a kiss isn’t going to cut it for Erika, who’s been through enough with him to deserve a straight answer. Again, it’s only as straight as Kyoya dares, which means it’s still pretty damn roundabout:

I already said you belong to me…it means you aren’t just a way to kill the time…in general society, they’d usually call it love, right?

Yikes. Still, it’s genuine. Satisfied that he was close enough for her to claim victory this time, Erika kisses him back, then agrees to let him be her real boyfriend. He takes exception to who is letting whom do what, but the long and short of it is, these two have worked things out. I couldn’t be happier.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 06

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Because she can be terribly vain sometimes and puts up with a little too much of Kyoya’s devaluing abuse (read: projecting), sometimes one can forget that Erika is a pretty good catch herself. She’s cute, she’s passionate, and she’s kind…to a fault, it would seem this week, as we meet they guy all the way in the back row of the promo art’s group photo: Kusakabe Yuu.

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For one thing, Erika can detect Yuu’s existence, something Aki and Marin aren’t able to do. Yuu apologizes for existing, but Erika’s persistent niceness affects him even stronger: being a details-oriented observant gal, she graciously points out the possible reasons Yuu is treated like a ghost and offers advice that pays off nicely. Then Kyoya notices her talking intently with Yuu and butts in, making Yuu revert to his old self in an instant.

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Because it’s Valentine’s Day, Erika makes chocolate cupcakes for Kyoya, when he says he won’t not accept something if she makes it for him (that’s about as nice as he allows himself to be in that exchange). Again, it’s the Code he uses, which suggests he couldn’t care less. When he sees Erika give Yuu a cupcake meant for him, it becomes abundantly clear he couldn’t care more. Also, I was horrendously premature in my assessment last week that Kyoya’s not a little boy anymore; for that I apologize!

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Rather, he’s a delicate little flower not above ruining everyone’s day if something displeases him, and seeing Erika pay attention to any other guy displeases him rotten. Poor Erika goes over in her head how things went so sour, and comes upon the fact that maybe she was too nice. She did mention to Yuu that if speaking truthfully, the high she gets from doing a good deed supersedes a kind of latent selfishness or moral purity. She got a little too hugh on those Yuu-helping vapors, and got burned.

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But at least her intentions were good (those the road to hell are paved with, right?). Kyoya, meanwhile, is just a petulant little shit for the duration. Another decent lad, Kakeru, despite being a male bimbo who wolfs down all the chocolate he and Kyoya got from girls, has the wisest advice Kyoya could hope to hear: there’s a limit to the abuse Erika can and will take before even she leaves him. They’re words already in Kyoya’s head, no doubt; hearing Takeru echo them probably only upsets him more. He’s dug a big hole and has no idea how to get out.

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Meanwhile, just as Kakeru foretold, Kusakabe becomes Erika’s sounding board for her troubles with Kyoya. When he learns the kind of person he truly is (and nothing Erika says is particularly exaggerated), Yuu finds his in and asks if she’d be willing to accept him. Yuu is all too aware of his surface shortcomings, but unlike Kyoya, he isn’t rotten on the inside, and vows to treasure Erika and never cause her to suffer or cry.

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His confession shakes Erika out of her spell, and she Yuu him for what he is: a kind and very comely guy. Tired from the effort she’s put into Kyoya with so little progress, she sees a path of less resistance with Yuu, and is in the emotionally exhausted position to seriously consider his offer.

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Back at school, Kyoya is surprised that Erika hasn’t spammed his phone and is nowhere in sight. He even almost asks Sanda where she is…have we ever seen him this flustered? 

Then he crosses paths with Yuu, the guy who has no chance against him, no chance, d’you hear? – and Yuu tells him straight up, with eyes un-hidden by bangs, another sentiment already rattling around in Kyoya’s head: “Erika is wasted on you. She deserves better. I’m awaiting her response.”

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Because the last thing he would do is show that this sudden turn of events has cut and distressed him deeply, Kyoya tells Yuu he hopes they make each other very happy in their pure and beautiful (not said: dull and predictable) life, and again asserts that Erika was only ever a way to kill time.

And because this is a small school, Erika overhears all of this, mixes it with all the similar crap he’s said to her recently, takes him at his outward words which she can’t keep form hurting her. Note how she doesn’t break the necklace Kyoya gave her.

She couldn’t explain to Yuu why she loved Kyoya, who made her suffer so. The why didn’t matter to her at first, but maybe now, halfway through Ookami’s run and realizing other options are available, it’s starting to.

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