Great Pretender – 09 – Shock & Awe

In Singapore Sky we’ve had two storylines running in parallel: the Thierry gang’s efforts to bilk the Ibrahims out of their fortune through air racing, and the slow reveal of Abby’s Dark Past and her apparent ongoing death wish. While the two plotlines bear little in common, this week it’s starting to become clearer why they occupy the same arc.

The biggest issue for Laurent and Cynthia is whether Abby can stay alive long enough for their scam to pay off. Makoto proves he’s a born con man by effortlessly luring Sam and his millions into the phony underground casino, but Abby’s continued deteroiration concerns him, and not in terms of whether she’ll cost him money. He wants to learn more about Abby’s story, and help if he can.

It’s what sets Makoto apart from his more emotionally detached partners, but they haven’t gotten as far as they have with their conning if it weren’t for that commitment to detachment, or at least compartmentalization. Laruent and Cynthia may well care a great deal about Abby, but they have a job to do, and trying to break down Abby’s walls could threaten that job and Abby herself.

Meeting Luis Muller was a catalyst for Abby’s continued descent into her traumatic memories. While she had loving parents and early success in ballet, the 2003 bombing of Baghdad claimed those parents’ lives, and Abby channeled her physical talents into what from her perspective was freedom fighting. Unfortunately, this ended in abject defeat, and while her comrades died all around her she was cursed with the good luck to survive.

Back in the present, Makoto has Sam eating out of his hand, getting him to bet 2.5 million on a race he then loses because, deliciously ironically, Cynthia is able to successfully seduce the baby-faced young pilot he bets on, which lets Abby slip a compound into the engine that causes his plane to stall out.

Since this was the first time Sam trusted Makoto to wager his cash (having been banned from the casino by Laurent after “discovering” his secret identity) you’d understand Sam suspecting Makoto of being In On It. But when he points his gun at Makoto’s head, it’s not because he suspects Makoto at all—he’s just pissed off in general.

The gang may have made millions off him already, but Makoto didn’t lose his trust, so they can still milk him for more, knowing his frustration and insatiable greed for winning and money will continue to drive his actions.

Abby, meanwhile, quietly does her job when she needs to, and one night she goes out for a walk with Luis Muller so she can confirm what she suspects: he was one of if not the fighter pilot who dropped the bombs on her hometown, killed her parents, and ruined her life. Her knife is literally out when she broaches the topic, which means whether Luis denies it or not, she’s ready to exact revenge.

Extremely strict Singaporean laws notwithstanding, murdering Luis is most definitely not on the list of things Laurent and Cynthia want to happen just as they’re ready to finish cleaning the Ibrahims out. And while we saw what she did to a dummy with her knife, I believe we’ve yet to witness Abby definitively kill anyone, even in the past where the fog of war throws all in doubt.

That would make Luis her first, and who knows how that will affect her in or out of a cockpit. As Cynthia tells Makoto, knowing someone’s story is different from understanding how they feel. Well, it looks like we’re poised to find out just how Abby feels about a great many things, and what if anything Makoto can do.

Great Pretender – 08 – Tinker, Gambler, Soldier, Fly

The plan is to get Sam to join an underground casino the gang controls and squeeze him for all he’s worth. When Cynthia’s honeypot angle fails (Sam likes ’em young), and Abby refuses to be her replacement, Laurent is ready with a backup: Makoto. Specifically, his skills as a mechanic. In order to sell him, he brings in Luis Muller (Clark’s rival in the air who was nearly killed in an accident) and his attractive, patient wife Isabelle.

Thing is, Luis is only interested in one thing: revenge. He wants Sam and Clark dead and their entire race burned to the ground, but isn’t willing to stoop to a con to accomplish that. He’s also a bit…unbalanced since the accident. Fortunately Isabelle is steady as a rock and comports herself well in selling Makoto as a desirable mechanic, even though it’s her very first time participating in a con.

Clark is eventually sold by Makoto’s mechanical know-how, but Sam is on the fence. Clark thinks he’s a cheeky but otherwise “nice guy” but Sam, being a self-professed “bad guy” can sense that Makoto is more like him than he lets on. That belief is confirmed thanks to Laurent’s use of Mrs. Kim and some goons to pose as Muller’s “patroness” who are looking to hang Makoto out to dry for double-crossing her pilot.

Sam eats right into their hands, claiming Makoto as his “property” and “buying” him off of Mrs. Kim. The kicker is when he hears about the underground casino to which Makoto has connections. Sam may not fall for pretty faces like Abby’s or Cynthia’s, but he certainly falls for the prospect of betting on pilots and making more money on the side, especially as it caters to his bad-guy image.

One thing I like about Sam (who is otherwise a scumbag) is that you’re never 100% sure whether he’s buying what the con artists are selling, or simply going along for the ride to see where it goes. As for Abby, she’s interested in learning whether Luis was really a soldier, and when and where he operated, as he may have played a role in her own dark, traumatic militant past. That said, you can only have so many shots of Abby staring stoically out of windows!

Tower of God – 03 – Any Door Will Do

As his party waits for the latest test, Aguero (who I’ll call Khun going forward since that’s what Bam calls him) recalls some sore memories about his sister Maria, who was basically his version of Bam’s Rachel. Maria betrayed Khun once she became a Princess of Jahad, and he was exiled. Rachel’s sudden abandonment of Bam could also be called a betrayal, but for the fact Bam doesn’t consider it that.

Instead, he saw it as the ultimate motivator: If you want to follow me, there’s some shit you gotta do without me. As for Khun, his mind sometimes fills with the murmurs of those who mock his failure and foolishness, and a “Plastic Bag person” is able to provoke him with that same kind of talk. However, the Bag person isn’t trying to start a fight, but deliver a hint for the next test.

That test involves ten doors, one of which must be opened within ten minutes to avoid elimination. The Bag guy tells them that no one who has opened the door within five minutes has lost. Once the clock has started, the lack of further hints by the administrator Hansung Yu serves as a hint in and of itself.

Sure enough, as Khun’s head fills with doubt and more mocking murmurs, it’s Rak who takes decisive action, opening a door just before the five-minute mark. The test isn’t a matter of choosing the right door—any door will do—but trusting in one’s instincts enough to open any door fast enough. If Khun can’t be certain about his actions, it’s good that he has Rak on his team.

This otherwise clever, elegant test is somewhat undermined by the sheer amount of explanation that takes place before, during, and after the test—a full ten minutes of this episode. I realize there’s a lot of source material to work with but this test still felt padded.

The next yest is described as a voluntary “bonus” test, but the team who wins it won’t have to take any more tests and be granted permission to climb the Tower. It’s a five-round “crown game” in which one member of a team must wear a crown and sit in a throne while the other two fight off challengers.

Again, there’s a lot of explanation of this test, which is necessary to know what’s going on, but that means there’s only time for the first round of that test, which is undertaken by Anaak, Hatz and Shibisu (who earlier befriends Bam). The ridiculously competent Anaak absolutely ruins the first team of competitors and claims the crown herself, promising her teammates she won’t let anyone have it.

Had the relatively simple door test been pared down to a more economic length, we could have gotten more of this more complicated test. While I enjoyed some of the moments of Bam’s team just chillaxing between tests, during which it’s revealed the sky above them is fake and the real one might not exist, the pacing of the episode as a whole still felt sub-optimal.

And is that a cloaked Rachel, descended from the top of the Tower to check on Bam’s progress? Will he be able to flag down and talk to his idol, or will she vanish in the shadows? We’ll have to find out next week.

AICO – 09 – Bogged Down in Matter…and Exposition

In a key early scene that informs the torrent of revelations to come in the on-the-nosely-titled “Truth”, Aiko weeps for the loss of Shinomiya, something for which Shiraishi is very grateful, despite the fact she doesn’t blame Aiko for the loss.

We also learn that Kanzaki essentially leaves the remaining Divers no choice but to press on, questioning whether they took the risk to their lives seriously when they signed up for a mission they knew they might not return from.

Sagami curses Kanzaki’s cleverness, but the kid has a point: they signed up for this. That they were lied to about the details doesn’t change the fact that taking the job meant being prepared to die from the start.

From there, “Truth” unfolds pretty much like the previous episodes, with the team storming through the next zone to get to the next gate…only this is the final gate before Primary Point, and they no longer have a Beetle to protect them from the big stuff.

Thankfully, and somewhat surprisingly, however, a “benevalent” purplish version of the Matter protects Aiko & Co. from the malignant red Matter int he nick of time, in the process sending Kanzaki and Aiko flying like Renton and Eureka.

But once the group enters the facility where Aiko’s still-incomplete operation took place—and where the Burst began—the end of their journey also marks the end of the episode’s momentum. For the balance of the episode, revelation after revelation is made, thanks to Dr. Isazu remotely  talking to Aiko and the others from the facility’s P.A. system.

Much of what he says, we already know: that Kanzaki is really Yura, for instance. Some of the news is, well, new: the “Aiko” we’ve followed all this time wasn’t the one with the real brain after all, but AICO, the elaborate artificial brain occupying the carbon nanostructure-repaired real body of the real Aiko—both built by Yura.

Yura intends to merge the fake Aiko’s brain and body to end the burst, which will also destroy the near-as-makes-no-difference sentient life form he created. No other possible solution is brought up; Isazu simply informs Aiko that the SDF will soon pummel the facility she’s in, so she’d better find cover.

Because so much information is dumped on us, some of which repeats what’s already been revealed to us, things get really stagnant in the latter chunk of the episode. Switching from the facility to the hospital where Isazu is to the hacker’s house where Kurase and Nanbara are only feels like a naked attempt to break the infodump up among different settings, and it doesn’t really work.

The slog is somewhat interrupted when the red Matter arrives, and rather than stick with Kanzaki/Yura or the Divers, Aiko runs off on her own, gets cornered, as is once again saved by the purplish Matter, in which an inviting, brightly-lit opening is formed. When Gummi goes in, Aiko follows, and before she knows it she’s face-to-face with “the other Aiko”, the one Isazu says is the real deal.

Does this mean Isazu’s daughter is controlling the red Matter? What are the two Aikos going to discuss? Is there any way to end the Burst and save Japan from destruction without destroying the artificial body that apparently started it all?

Sagrada Reset – 23

Kei is in the back of a Toyota Harrier with Urachi, with Tsushima driving and Tomoki riding shotgun; Ukawa, Murase, Sakagami and Oka Eri (I’ll say her whole name since everyone in the show always does) escape by bike (and Ukawa turning the road into a slot car track). Haruki is still at the Karaoke parlor with Sakuin and Kagaya, apparently outnumbered…but it’s all part of the plan.

I hope you don’t mind the calm, measured voice of Ishikawa Kaito, because you get a lot of it in this episode, and that’s saying something. He has an adversary with the opposite position to try to convince to his side, after all.

Kei is as persistent as he is righteous, laying out all of the alternative options to simply wiping out abilities, using the abilities of others to lighten the burden of his two “locked” parents—even transferring his father’s ability to a cat.

At the end of Kei’s spiel, Urachi is still not convinced, and Kei isn’t surprised…because Urachi isn’t the one he was trying to convince: it’s Kagaya, back at the parlor with Haruki, who heard the whole debate through Tomoki.

In light of everything that was said, Kagaya chooses to support Kei. Just like that, Urachi loses a vital team member of his crusade. He can no longer realistically carry out his plan without Kagaya’s support, so he essentially surrenders to Kei, handing him his notebook.

As for what occurs at the very end, with Souma passing thorough the boundaries of Sakurada in a train, suddenly having all her memories rush back, and lamenting that she’s “certain nothing was even” for Kei? Your guess is as good as mine. It would seem Urachi has been quite suddenly removed as an opponent, but perhaps the events of this episode were the easy part of Kei’s plan, with the true challenge coming in the finale.

Sagrada Reset – 22

Kei knows he can’t accomplish his goals alone. He needs a little help from friends, classmates, acquaintances…and even his “nemesis” Eri Oka, to whom he genuinely admits defeat for losing in the pre-reset timeline. Before long, he has Eri, Murase, Sakagami, Tomoki, Ukawa, and Haruki in a karaoke parlor, where he lays it all out and asks them for their help.

He gives them time to think it over and leave if they wish, but as he tells Haruki in the stairwell, he already knows they’ll all agree, because he looked a little deeper into the future back in the photo. He feels like he’s lying and he ran away, but Haruki is glad he did, because she knows he’ll always persevere.

Once everyone has indeed agreed, Kei sets his multifaceted plan into operation, inviting Urachi to join him at the karaoke parlor. Urachi brings Sakuin and Kagaya; Kei is all alone…or he looks alone. Perceived vulnerability is key in his gambit, for Urachi has to believe that no matter how things go in their talk, he’s in control and will get the last say.

After remarking how their mutual desire to control all abilities (Kei by keeping them, Urachi by eliminating them) makes them alike, he proposes a compromise: the abilities remain, controlled by Kei, but he won’t be a pure dictator, because people like Urachi will help him.

Urachi agrees to the plan—all to quickly, and after shaking hands with Kei, he has Kagaya shake hands with him too. Only, Kagaya forgets his locking ability because Kei utilizes the combined power of Eri, Murase, and Sakagami.

Urachi isn’t worried, however, since he can simply rewind Kagaya’s time to before he forgot his power. He’s also used their time talking to call for backup, and before long Kei is surrounded by Bureau members. But he makes the slip—and takes Urachi with him—by using Ukawa’s ability to construct whatever she wants within a minute; in this case a network of tubes.

Urachi and Kei end up in a car with Tomoki and a very confused Tsushima, meeting Urachi for the first time. When Kei says he’s kidnapped Urachi, Tsushima thinks he’s joking, but he’s not. But Urachi points out that Tsushima is now an accomplice to Kei’s crimes.

Once again Kei, has only bought time and stayed a few steps ahead, but the struggle is far from over. It very much remains to be seen if Urachi can ever be convinced to allow abilities to remain in Sakurada, or if his plans can be permanently thwarted rather than simply delayed. One thing’s for sure: Kei is not alone in this.

Sagrada Reset – 21

The episode begins back when Souma made curry at Kei’s, and gives us more of the conversation they had, specifically the trickiness of their struggle against Urachi. Their adversary has devised a number of contingencies such that any attempt to undo his plans will be thwarted.

Souma laments that she’s thus far been unable to find a way around those contingencies in order to save the abilities of Sakurada, so she asks Kei to use her precognition to find the best possible future for himself; the one she couldn’t find. For Kei, that’s a future in which Souma doesn’t disappear.

Back in the recently reset present, Souma is about to meet with Urachi at the cafe, but changes course, instigating a pursuit by Urachi and Sakuin. Kei heads to the waterfront with the photo of Souma (whose ability he’ll borrow) Haruki (whose future he’ll read), Sakagami (who’ll be the means of borrowing Souma’s power) and Tomoki (to keep track of time and communicate with the other Souma).

It’s quite an intricate little plan, with a lot at stake and in which timing is everything. The moment Kei gains Photo Souma’s precognitive ability and Haruki speaks to him, the look on his face says it all…but in his infinite coyness, he reveals next to nothing in the way of actual details regarding that future.

Meanwhile, Souma is quickly caught and cornered on the top of a fire escape by Urachi and Sakuin, and believing her work to be done, is prepared to jump over the edge to prevent herself from being taken hostage, and thus becoming a potential liability to Kei.

But since Kei can see Souma’s future as well as Urachi’s, he knows what she’s about to do, and stops her before she can, using Tomoki as a go-between. Instead, he tells her he has to meet her again, and has her wait five more minutes, during which time she tells Urcachi what she really is (‘not’ Souma) and the mistakes he made that allowed Kei to reset.

What she doesn’t tell Urachi is what Kei did with his planner in the timeline with no abilities, in which Urachi has a gap in his memories. That’s because the five minutes are up, Souma jumps off the ledge, and rather than fall to her death, she’s caught by Murase (Hi Murase!), who Kei just so happened to have searching for her.

As Kei learns more and more of the futures of Haruki, Souma, and himself, he gives Souma very precise instructions on how to leave Sakurada until returning noon tomorrow. All the while, Kei is conversing with Haruki about favorite colors, and how Haruki has come to like a lot of things she once had no preference for.

It’s that Haruki Kei wants to preserve, as well as all of the abilities in Sakurada. But he won’t do that by sacrificing Souma; he wants her to be able to live a life where she’ll be able to wake up and go to sleep happy day after day.

Is he being selfish, insisting on so many conditions for victory? Perhaps, but as the only person in Sakurada who will always remember everything, no matter what, it’s kinda his show.

Sagrada Reset – 20

Urachi strikes the first blow, and as soon as Kei commits to preserving the abilities in Sakurada, all the abilities in Sakurada go bye-bye in an instant. After some momentary disorientation from the memories clashing in his head, Kei finds himself in a new world.

But from the moment this world “begins”, Kei doesn’t seem comfortable in it. How can he, when he has all his memories from the previous one? And how can he live life here knowing there’s a chance he can reverse Urachi’s handiwork and bring abilities back? If he can make it so Haruki’s last text to him isn’t an unnecessary apology?

In this world, Souma Sumire attends his high school and is an ordinary girl who likes him. But she notices something’s ‘off’ about him and through some discussions about the fallacy of memory, the five-minute hypothesis and being happy with the simple, unflashy life one has been given, Souma can help but feel rejected.

But it’s not just her: it’s this entire world. Kei can’t stay; not as long as he has those memories. And due to his ability, his memories will never go away.

In this world, Kei was born in Sakurada, while in reality he was born elsewhere and only moved to Sakurada in the sixth grade. In this world, his parents are dead and he is adopted. But he remembers the apartment he grew up in, and also remembers the taste of his mother’s curry. So he pays a visit to that hometown.

What I didn’t expect was that he would meet his mother, and the sister he never knew he had, whose name, Megumi, shares the same kanji has his name, Kei: both represent deep love, as their mother says to them; since names are what others use to call you.

Of course, Kei’s mother has no idea Kei is her son, so when he brings up something horrible he did to his parents and doesn’t think he has the right to seek forgiveness, she firmly corrects him. She may not know who his parents are, but they surely love him, even if they can’t forgive him, so he should apologize.

Of course, he can’t. Leaving his family was the price of remaining in Sakurada.

Little did I know (and possible little did Kei know himself) that his visit with his mother and sister would be crucial in his plans to undo what Urachi has done. When he visits Haruki, she’s back to her robotic, emotionless self of two years ago, and does not remember or trust him.

What she does do is humor Kei quite a bit, coming along on a bus ride, conceding a text was sent from her phone, proving they are acquaintances, than helping him hold a Polaroid of the cherry tree they’re standing in front of.

That photo, which was in Haruki’s hidden diary, turns out to be Kei’s key to getting back in the fight, as it transports him and Haruki to the time the photo was taken, back when she had the reset ability. All her memories rush back, but they’re a jumble, and she struggles to stand from the stress.

For whatever reason, she still can’t quite remember him, and when he tells her she should Reset, she tells him she can’t, because it “doesn’t feel like the right time.” That time comes almost immediately, however, thanks, again, to Kei’s experiences earlier in the day.

He thinks about the home and family he can never go back to, and the true meaning of his name, and dearly wishes for one last chance to undo some of the things he’s done. He didn’t cry over his past experiences on this day, but he does cry here, and Haruki remembers that that is her cue to Reset: when she sees someone crying. So she Resets.

And what do you know, Sumire Souma is also crying, by the water, in that very moment, upset that even after everything that happened, she’s not the one.

Back on the evening of October 22nd, Kei and Haruki are outside her house, and he can’t help but steal a big hug, so happy he is that his Haruki is ‘back.’ She can tell a lot has happened, and is worried about him. Kei tells her what’s going to happen the night after tomorrow unless they do something…they, not just him.

Haruki asks if abilities are really necessary, and Kei says no…the town would be fine without them, but he likes them, so he’ll do everything he can to protect them. With her help, he’ll attain the MacGuffin.

Eromanga-sensei – 07

Senju Muramasa doesn’t back down on her intention to crush Masamune, and easily dispatches Elf by having the editor inform her just how many more sales she has (14+ mil vs. 2 mil), forcing a quick Elf retreat. Masamune responds with a challenge to his “senpai”: whoever loses the contest will have to do whatever the victor says.

We knew this was the challenge that was coming, it’s just a matter of what Masamune will write, and whether it will be good enough to beat a platinum powerhouse. He decides he’ll convert his little sister novel to a short story, but short stories aren’t his forte.

Enter Elf, who uses her expertise gained by her own strong sales and puts Masamune through a gauntlet of drafts, until he’s got a “passable”, if not yet good enough, manuscript.

Then the enemy pays him a visit, intentionally wearing a school uniform in order to “make a better impression.” You see, she wants Masamune to surrender, and instead agree to “be hers”, i.e. write novels just for her.

Elf and an on-screen Sagiri are suspicious of her appearance in the midst of the contest, but it would seem Muramasa isn’t trying to sabotage her kohai, just make him pivot to something she sees would benefit both sides. She also doesn’t flinch at Elf’s claim she and Masamune are living together.

She comes in, and after briefly getting distracted by a sudden jolt of inspiration forcing her to stop her conversation in the middle and start writing (and she’s left-handed!), tells Masamune what her dream is: to be able to go beyond writing stories she’s rate 100-out-of-100, and create something even she, not just a fan, could rate 1 million out of 100.

She only writes at all because of Masamune, whose battle novels were the only things that moved her to the bottom of her heart. When he shifted to rom-com with the little-sister proposal, and stopped writing her favorite novel, she became a wreck, and only by writing her own stuff could she keep going.

So Muramasa, certain her dream is more important than Masamune’s, once again pleads with him to become “hers” and write only for her, promising she’ll support him and his sister the rest of their lives if that’s what it takes. But Masamune’s dream isn’t just his own, and Sagiri leaves her room to tell Muramasa as much.

Also, Sagiri won’t accept any scenario in which she gives up Masamune for anyone else. She earlier says he’s not allowed to date other girls ever after seeing Elf’s tweet. This is highly unreasonable behavior, but younger sibling jealousy is nothing new or abnormal. Masamune shows a united front with his sister and declines Muramasa’s author, saying he’ll instead get her hooked on his rom-com.

I mean, that’s great and all, but surely Masamune realizes he can’t keep indulging Sagiri’s possessiveness, right? And that any future romantic partner has to be chosen from among girls he’s not related to by marriage? Just asking for a friend…

Masamune ends up winning the contest, because even though Muramasa got 15 more votes, her short story ran double the allowed length, and she was disqualified. Whether this was intentional on her part, or if she simply wrote the number of pages she had to write and didn’t care what happened afterwards, the story was all about her and Masamune.

Like Masamune’s story about his sister, Muramasa’s is a love letter…to him. So now Muramasa is not just in love with his novels, but with him in general. Masamune doesn’t have a satisfying answer: “there’s [already] someone I love.”

It leads me to wonder if Muramasa’s only purpose on the show was to be defeated twice in short order and retreat as Elf did upon hearing about her sales…or if the battle has just begun. Either way, he harem has become really crowded.

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Eromanga-sensei – 06

When Megumi repeatedly calls LNs “creepy”, Ishikawa Yui breaks out a more Mikasa-esque voice for Tomoe, going at Megumi as if she were trying to hurt her beloved Eren. Masamune avoids blows, but Tomoe enacts her revenge by getting Megumi totally hooked on the books she once so cavalierly looked down upon.

Megumi’s original purpose for checking out some novels was to get closer to Sagiri, and she gets closer than she bargained for, not only being allowed an audience with Muramase’s sister, but serving as a lewd model, bound and blindfolded.

Sagiri is so excited and inspired by her new model, she can’t help but impulsively relieve Megumi if her shimapan, an effective if dated way to blow up her “lewd girl” persona. That being said, Megumi gets what she wants: actual contact with Sagiri, and a promise of continued novel exchange—the foundation of a friendship.

When Masamune’s publisher tells him they won’t be publishing his little sister LN for a year (because the younger, more popular Senju Muramasa snatched his earlier publishing spot), Yamada offers to help him get published. But they’re both early for the meeting, so they have a little date that both know is a date but pretend it isn’t.

Yamada, who is surprisingly not the most irritating girl in the show, and has grown quite a bit as a character in her last few episodes, explains how book sales are like the ultimate game, so it makes sense to always keep score. Despite losing to Senju like Masamune in that department, she dismisses Senju as someone playing a “one-player game” with different rules.

She doesn’t believe Senju would be disappointed in the slightest if Yamada crushed her. Yamada accidentally tells Masamune she loves him, because she knows he would be disappointed, and thus a more worthwhile opponent. She quickly walks back the “I love you”, but the vulnerability and honesty of that moment, along with an earlier scene where she stops when she realizes she’s acting tsundere were nice touches.

The date over, the two mosey to the publisher, and encounter a girl who like Yamada is not dressed in normal modern attire, but traditional Japanese garb. Yamada assumes she’s a rookie when she spots her manuscript and is back to the haughty self she was when she first met Masamune. I guess this is just how she initially interacts with peers in her field? The girl doesn’t give her much in return, but accompanies them to the offices.

There, Masamune’s publisher denies his request to go with another house for his novel, but does suggest an alternative: he’ll enter a short-story competition with four other young authors, and the winner will get published not next year, but in September. Masamune emphatically expresses his intense enthusiasm and signs right up, claiming it’s the first brick of the road to realizing his dreams.

Perhaps a bit too emphatically, as the yukata girl finally speaks up, and not in a docile tone, announcing she’ll be the one to crush his sentimental, shonen-esque little dreams in favor of her own dream. She’s no rookie, after all…she’s Senju Muramasa, and she won’t have Masamune speak her name without the -senpai honorific.

So…Senju is a cutthroat, competitive maniac, eh? Well…I guess that’s probably better than what I expected (someone who is pre-in-love with Masamune / his work despite being more successful than him). In any case, the whole group of girls has now been introduced; we’ll soon see if and how Masamune interacts with the newest and most hostile.

Eromanga-sensei – 05

I wasn’t really serious when I stated last week that Sagiri saying “she’s in love with someone” meant a rejection of Masamune. This week Sagiri barely hides her brocon, and if anything is brassed off that her brother won’t return those feelings, because he doesn’t want to admit he’s a siscon. What both can agree on is that if Masamune is going to write a novel about a little sister, she’s going to illustrate it.

Masamune ends up ignoring Elf’s initial pleas to be rescued by her fastidious editors, so caught up in planning the look of the heroine with Sagiri (the more it looks like her, the better), but Elf manages to finally get his attention with a barrage of arrow fire, and he catches her in a manner she later romanticizes when she finally gets to meet Sagiri, and has fun both playing video games and posing in lewd positions until Masamune gives her up to the editors.

While working on his project proposal, which if approved will get the fast track to publication, Sagiri is eager to show him her completed work using Elf as a model. The illustration inspires Masamune to put an Elf-looking character in the novel, which I thought would really irk Sagiri (since another girl is intruding on her life with her brother and now their art) but she takes it well, and wants to continue inspiring him by drawing different kinds of girls she can only draw if she sees in the flesh.

That would create a problem for Masamune…if he wasn’t surrounded by girls. While I still loathe Megumi, at least her role as the only “otaku outsider” becomes clearer, as she so blithely looks down on the kind of books Masamune and the others create and adore.

The final member of the harem also comes a little more into focus, though she’s only mentioned by name: Senju Muramasa, sharing her name with the legendary student of the legendary swordsmith Masamune; fitting since it’s implied she’s younger. With Elf now a neighbor, friend, and collaborator, Masamune needs another distant rival…at least until that distance suddenly closes, which on this show is pretty likely.

Eromanga-sensei – 04

Whither Yamada Elf goest, so to does Eromanga-sensei (the show, not the artist). Starting out as a caricature of a super-arrogant, condescending brat with delusions of grandeur, Elf’s become a lot more balanced in the last two episodes.

She also reveals that delusions aside she’s a highly capable, multi-talented person, as evidenced by the lovely, tasty-looking meal she lovingly prepares for Masamune. The reason she’s happy to cook is that she gains perspective on how characters in her stories feel when they’re cooking for those they have their eye on.

Sagiri has also picked up on the quickly evolving relationship between Yamada and Masamune (even if he doesn’t see Yamada as a serious love interest), and calls Masamune a liar for saying they don’t get along, when he’s clearly there all the time.

Combined with the result of bringing up the drawing of large-boobed women (Sagiri can’t do it because she doesn’t have them herself), Masamune ends up shut out of her bedroom once more, though the core of her disappointment is his refusal to come clean about the neighbor.

The day the two authors are to reveal their stories to one another, Masamune arrives at Elf’s house to…no welcome whatsoever. I fully expected him to barge in on her working (or doing something else) in the nude, but I was pleasantly surprised when he found her all covered up.

Specifically, she’s in a very practical sweatsuit, with bags under her eyes instead of ringlets beside them, and a very serious look on her face. This is all Masamune needs to realize all her talk about writing light novels being a mere “hobby” is a bunch of codswallop.

More evidence is presented when the two read one another’s manuscripts before turning them over to Eromanga-sensei. He’s reliably blown away by her story, a page-turner seemingly perfectly tuned for Eromanga’s stylus, right down to the small-boobed characters in cool outfits. But Elf is also blown away by Masamune’s…just not in the same way he is by hers.

It’s not that her story is in any way worse—on the contrary, it would likely sell many orders of magnitude more copies than his—it’s that this isn’t a competition for the most bankable LN. It’s a competition for Eromanga’s services and after reading Masamune’s manuscript, Elf is so sure she can’t compete, she tosses her manuscript straight into the shredder (much to Masa’s dismay).

Reading it also confirms to her that Eromanga-sensei is his little sister next door, and that’s why she can’t compete: it’s a 300-page love letter, for chrissake. It’s not even meant for any other reader but her, which is why Elf is both outclassed and beet-faced she read it at all.

When Masamune finally gains access to Sagiri’s room—via the window in a frankly needlessly reckless stunt that could have gotten him killed and resulted in ending up in a very lewd position with Sagiri beneath him. There, he learns why she hasn’t opened the door for him in two weeks: she doesn’t hate him, she’s been improving her drawing, both battle scenes and bigger boobs.

Her take on his dalliances next door was that the neighbor was a rival artist trying to take “Izumi-sensei” away from her, while he kept the wager secret because he was worried she’d be seduced by the more famous and successful Elf. With the misunderstanding cleared up and his victory sealed (she’d never leave him for another author), she reads the manuscript.

Like Elf, it’s embarrassing for her to read; doubly so since it’s about her. And while she considers it an interesting story, he’d never be able to release it as a book, because it’s just too personal. She also, not in so many words, rejects the implied confession the manuscript represents (at least, Masamune seems to take it as a rejection).

Masamune is fine with that rejection, but he’s committed to re-working the story into something he can show to his editor, something that will sell and garner a huge audience, and eventually, get awarded his first anime adaptation, putting him on the same level as Elf. Most importantly, his goal is to get Sagiri out of her room so they can watch the first episode of their anime together in the living room.

While I thought this was Masamune going too far and was sure it would put Sagiri off, I am surprised yet again when Sagiri take a couple steps outside her room; the first steps in many to come on their quest to create an anime-worthy book. Let the goal-striving begin.

Eromanga-sensei – 03

When Masamune investigates the abandoned, possibly haunted house next door, he’s surprised to find Yamada Elf has just moved in: and likes to play the piano naked after a shower to get inspired to write.

After the standard accusations of peeping tommery, she invites him in, and most of the episode is given over to making Elf a little more dimensional, if still grating in her intense, obnoxious arrogance.

As Sagiri’s bedroom window faces Elf’s office, you’d think it wouldn’t be long before she found out who Eromanga-sensei is, but Elf sees Masamune’s sister and thinks she’s just that: a little sister who has fun drawing, not the person whose services they’re fighting over.

It’s also a bit shitty of Masamune not to even mention to Sagiri his little wager with Elf, considering Sagiri is the ‘prize’. Then again, it’s a good thing that Masamune isn’t the perfect MC while everyone around him is flawed in some way.

Indeed, Masamune’s flaw seems to be that in spite of Elf’s toxic personality, incessant pretentiousness, and pronunciation of ahhh-neee-may, he can’t help spending time with his new neighbor, nor indeed being a fan himself, even if meeting Yamada-sensei wasn’t what he expected.

For a time, it doesn’t seem like Elf invited Masamune in just to rub his nose in her superior success, but to spend time with a fellow author. She earnestly asks why he’s a fan, and he earnestly answers: after a death in the family, her books cheered him up. They taught him that novels can “save lives” of some readers, and for that she has his heartfelt thanks, competition or no.

Elf’s reaction betrays a softer, more genuine side to her, even if it’s short-lived and she’s back to being awful the next day. But it’s also clear that she’d rather have Masamune around than not, and also strongly disagrees with his workaholic approach to authoring, as she considers her job a “hobby” and only writes if her motivation is maxed out.

Despite knowing nothing of their competition involving her, Sagiri is uneasy anyway because her big brother, who has been All Hers up to this point, is suddenly ‘in the web’ of a cute, rich next-door neighbor.

While her music and online fans keep Eromanga merry, I feel one of the factors that drives her motivation to draw is knowing Masamune will always be there in the house, serving her meals and protecting her.

Yamada throws a thorn in that arrangement, and it will be interesting to see whether that motivates Sagiri to explore beyond her room. But yeah…Masamune really should tell her about his wager with Elf.