The Quintessential Quintuplets – 18 – The Taught Become the Teachers

Last Chance Time! Fuutarou fires up the quints, assuring them he’ll do as he pleases, and what he pleases is for them to pass their exams. But in the middle of his pep talk, his nose bleeds—an apparent symptom of being force-fed chocolate by Miku, who is trying to ascertain what kind he likes. One day Itsuki is missing from the study group, and the others inform Fuutarou that she visits their mother’s grave on the 14th of every month.

Itsuki ends up encountering Shimoda, who was taught by their mom. Shimoda describes her sensei as serious, strict, and quick to smack them, but to be fair, she was a delinquent. Itsuki’s mom set her on the right track, and now she herself is a teacher. Itsuki says she wants to follow in her mom’s footsteps, and Shimoda thinks that’s fine, but not if the sole reason is simply wanting to become her mother.

The theme of making use of one’s talents to teach others is present in every one of the smaller side-stories involving each quint. First Itsuki gets some insight into the kind of teacher her mom was, then Ichika notices Miku is making no progress in improving her cooking, and sends Nino to help teach her. When Miku tears up with frustration, even Nino can’t withhold advice.

Ichika keeps Fuu from interrupting by going to the store with him to buy a book they already had. Ichika also buys a book Fuu wanted about how to be a better teacher. A gift every once in a while is fine, but she doesn’t want to become Fuu’s sugar mama, so she resolves to give up on him. Even so, it only takes one smile and kind word from him to make her fall for him all over again!

With the finals fast approaching, the quints hit a wall. Fuu consults his book, which says excessive cramming can be counterproductive, so he sanctions an afternoon off, which they decide to spend at an amusement park. Everyone’s having fun, but at some point Yotsuba sneaks off with a “stomachache”.

Fuu senses something’s off, and eventually spots her bunny ribbon from the window of a Ferris Wheel pod. He joins her for the next revolution and learns she’s studying on her own, worried that failing will hold her sisters back. The five once attended a fancier school, but when she alone failed the exams there, they transferred as a group.

With this in mind, Fuu decides to allow for studying even on their afternoon off, but to his surprise, she’d already completed her Japanese assignment. It dawns on him that she’s better than any of her sisters at Japanese, and thus could assist him in teaching them, just as Miku could help him teach them social studies, or Itsuki science. Yotsuba is encouraged…and dare I say bashful!

Another 14th arrives and Itsuki visits her mom’s grave again, only this time Fuu tags along. She notes how making everyone a tutor is working, and it’s also helping her decide that she wants to pursue a future in educating others.

The next morning, Miku emerges from her bedroom with pajamas askew to find that Fuutarou has already eaten the chocolates she stayed up late to make, and he earnestly liked them! He then announces that she’s “number one”—words she takes precisely the way someone who liked Fuu would take them—only for him to clarify she was first in the latest mock exam.

Out on the balcony, Miku asks Ichika why she didn’t buy Fuu chocolates, knowing full well Ichika likes him too. After all their time together, Miku laments that Fuu doesn’t yet see them as girls, only students. She wants to pass her exams, graduate from being a student, and tell him how she feels.

Miku makes clear she won’t hold back on Ichika’s account; this is a race, so if Ichika slacks off she only has herself to blame. It’s clear Ichika would rather not have to compete with a sister for Fuu, but isn’t so averse that she’s going to give up altogether.

The day of the finals arrives with little fanfare—though the episode’s cold open depicts the five sisters heading into battle, and in the final scene we gradually learn how each sister faired. Yotsuba got the lowest total score of the quints, but more importantly didn’t fail. Itsuki is third, while Miku is second; Ichika claims the prize for the highest score. If she can win at exams, maybe she has a shot at being Fuu’s Number One too, eh?

I was worried for a second when Nino wasn’t present that she somehow managed to fail, which would have been a disaster, but she too passes, albeit with only a slightly higher total than Yotsuba. She left a note with Fuu’s boss saying she “has no further use for him”, but he’s not about to let her off that easily, and heads out to track her down so they can all celebrate together. After all, they did it by tutoring one another. Teamwork made the dream work.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Six Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Yotsuba: She may be the “dumbest”, but she’s the best at Japanese…and she won the Fuutarou Ferris Wheel sweepstakes! Total Points: 17 (3rd)
  2. Miku: Just misses winning the week with her most assertive performance of the season. She didn’t score the highest on the exams, but she finally won at cooking, and had some great reaction faces to boot. Total Points: 14 (5th)
  3. Ichika: I don’t expect Ichika to be the woman Fuu marries, and that’s a cryin’ shame, because there’s no denying how much she likes him and how well they go together. I wish she’d do more to help her own cause, even though she’s to be commended for helping Miku out. Total Points: 16 (4th)
  4. Itsuki: Didn’t have a terrible showing; her placing fourth is more about everyone above her having such a good week. She’ll make a great teacher one day! Total Points: 20 (2nd)
  5. Nino: Even a super-passive episode can’t knock the odds-on favorite from her overall top spot. Total Points: 23 (1st)

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 17 – Working Five to Five

The New Year is here, and Fuutarou and Raiha spot the Quints at the local shrine positively resplendent in their kimonos. I don’t often comment on the wardrobe of the sisters, but it is never not 100% on point, whether it’s modern or traditional garb. From there, Raiha invites herself to their new place, which means Fuutarou comes too.

The Quints’ new apartment is far more modest and normal than their previous spacious penthouse, and while, say, even Nino is fine with sharing the warmth of the kotatsu, the sisters simply aren’t used to the close quarters (Itsuki excepted, as she lived with the Uesugis for a while).

Newly reunited and empowered, the sisters are on a blessedly united front on the subject of Uesugi continuing to tutor them…they just don’t know how to pay him back! Ichika is the only one working, and is falling asleep during their first study session of the year, which isn’t a good sign! Because they’re watching a romantic TV show, there’s talk of a “peck on the cheek”, which is carried out by Yotsuba when she nonchalantly eats cream off his face.

Realizing having only Ichika pay their way isn’t tenable, the other sisters consider other jobs, which is really an excuse for the show to have sumptuous pans of them in various career outfits: Ichika as a tutor, Yotsuba as a grocery clerk, Miku as a café maid, and Nino as a dominatrix!

Speaking of cafés, Fuutarou is trying to advance at the one he works at, but while the apple pie he bakes looks identical, it is underdone. His boss then tells him they’re closing at noon to allow a film crew to shoot there, and who should Fuu encounter but Ichika—in full horror movie ditzy high school girl costume.

“Tamako-chan” wall-slams Fuu in a very romantically lit back room scene, voicing her embarassment with him watching her perform such a silly role. She feels she has no choice but to take any and all acting work she can, since rent, food, and utilities are proving more expensive than she thought. Nevertheless, the eldest sister will be strong for the other girls, and won’t let Fuu try to convince her otherwise.

To her surprise Fuu doesn’t scold her; in fact, he’s proud of how hard she’s working and grateful she’s making it possible for him to keep tutoring them. Once her scenes are filmed, Fuu catches her studying on her own, only to nod off from fatigue. Fuu provides a shoulder for her to nap upon and he says “good work”. Little does Fuu know she’s only pretending to sleep…she can’t let him see her blushing face!

While on a shopping trip in which she and Fuu are being used as Nino’s pack mules, Nino almost drops a bag of rice Yotsuba gives her to tie her shoe, but Fuu catches her, causing her to blush and her heart to beat faster. Having just gotten over his blonde alter ego, Nino simply isn’t ready to accept that Fuu is her “prince.”

While heading home, Yotsuba spots Ichika at a Starbucks with their dad. Believing her to be the most “amenable” (read: malleable) daughter, he insists that she and the other sisters return home immediately. When Ichika mentions Fuu, her dad says he’ll be welcomed back too…but as an aide to a professional tutor of his choosing.

When Ichika bristles at that, he asks her if she really believes Yotsuba can earn a passing grade with Fuu’s continued tutoring. Fuu, Nino, and Yotsuba are listening in from the bar, and Fuu cannot stand to hear the sisters run down by their own father, but Nino takes his hand and asks him to hold off.

Instead, Yotsuba approaches the table and tells their dad they’ll be continuing with Fuu and Fuu alone. Her Dad’s fine with that, but on the condition that this is collectively their last chance to pass. If they fail again under Fuu’s tutoring, he’ll transfer them to a different school for their third year—one that will accept them regardless of their scores.

Papa Nakano is an odd duck. One can’t overlook his resemblance to Fuutarou, nor his cold manner to match his wan complexion. He loves his daughters in his own way, but like most dads with daughters their age, he’s loath to let any man have them. He comes right out and tells Itsuki he “hates” Fuu. Part of that could be that Fuu chewed him out when he resigned, telling him to be more of an active father and calling him an asshole.

But another part of him could simply be envious that Fuu is able to spend so much time with them. Like Ichika, her dad works alone to pay the bills that come with raising five girls at once. I wonder if he regrets the sacrifice he made so they could live in luxury, seeing as how the result of never being around was that they moved out.

In any case, the Quints have really put themselves and Fuutarou on the spot. If Dad is to be believed, this is their last shot. They’ll have to improve their scores considerably, or they’ll end up at different schools next year. I wish that felt more threatening, but they spend so little time actually in school—it’s more that Fuutarou truly does want to help them. If they fail again, he’s failed again That can’t happen.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Five Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Ichika: Between being surprised by almost bumping into Fuu in the new place (so he can examine her mouth) to the whole Tamako-chan performance and their quality time “backstage”, Ichika takes her first win of the season. It was only a matter of time! Total Points: 13 (3rd)
  2. Yotsuba: The other girls are all talk and blushing, but only she actually puts her mouth on Fuu’s face, so she wins on that front. Combine that with the fact she carries a bag of rice for Fuu and stands up to their dad with conviction, and #4 had her best episode yet. Total Points: 12 (4th)
  3. Nino: For once Nino wasn’t in the spotlight, but her feelings for Fuu continue to simmer at key points this week. Her inviting him to sit under the kotatsu and taking his hand at the café were both nice moments.  Total Points: 22 (1st)
  4. Itsuki: I’m not saying she would have folded without backup, but I’m glad Yotsuba was there to back her up against their manipulative papa. Total Points: 18 (2nd)
  5. Miku: That Miku has yet to even slightly improve her culinary skills stretches credulity at this point—the joke is officially stale. There’s no doubt that she’d be a popular café maid, though. Total Points: 10 (5th)

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 16 – A Pretty Fun Hell

While Fuutarou, Itsuki and Ichika try to bail Yotsuba out of her track training camp, Miku stops by Nino’s for tea. She saw Nino stomp out of her previous hotel, and wonders what went on with Fuutarou. Nino is still fuming about Kintarou always being Fuu in disguise, but that’s tabled for now in favor of discussing Nino’s return home.

For all Nino thinks all of her sisters have changed, she’s changed too. They remain five sisters in completely different directions, but that just means they continue to complement each other by exposing them to things they normally wouldn’t…even something as mundane as the different teas they drink, which they learn come from the same leaf!

Operation Spring Yotsuba doesn’t get off to a great start, owing to how well the track captain knows Yotsuba, Itsuki’s less-than-stellar impression, and the simple fact her hair is too damn long! The real Yotsuba returns after having tackled the “groper” (a Fuutarou invention), but then it soon becomes obvious she isn’t Yotsuba either…she’s Nino!

That’s right, the scissors Nino produces at the end of her scene with Miku were meant for her own hair. Whether in order to confront the track people for Yotsuba’s sake, or because her heart was broken by a boy who never existed, or a little of both, Nino now sports the same cropped locks as Yotsuba, though she retains her signature butterfly ribbons and flat bangs.

With Yotsuba agreeing to help with the most recent meet and then quit the team—which is what she wants, but simply needed a nudge to do—Nino and Itsuki adorably make up, each apologizing for their role. Itsuki, the youngest of the quints, tears up despite having played the role of mom when she slapped Nino way too hard, and the fact they both buy tickets to the movie the other sister liked completes the reconciliation.

With the quints reunited, they soon complete their problem sets, and Fuutarou has them go over them again as they enter the home stretch till the exams. He shows deference to Nino by asking her if it’s okay to proceed in this manner…she can’t help but blush and fight back a smile at his polite attentiveness. The day of the exams arrives, and the quints stride confidently into the schook. Fuutarou hangs back, borrowing Itsuki’s phone to call his sister…but we see he was actually on the phone with the quints’ dad.

The exam scores come in, and out of 500 possible points from the five subjects tested, none of them scored higher than 206. While discouraged by these underwhelming results considering how hard they worked, the sisters actually seem to be looking forward to Fuutarou scolding them and pushing them to do better…which is why they’re shocked to learn from their father’s butler Ebata that Fuutarou has resigned as their tutor.

The sisters can’t even go to Fuutarou immediately, as Ebata has been ordered to tutor them on an interim basis. The problem sets Ebata gives them seem so easy, which they attribute to Fuutarou’s diligent tutoring. Then they break out the rolled crib notes he gave them in case of emergency and discover they don’t contain notes at all, but a message meant for all five sisters to read off in order.

It concludes, “I’m glad I finally done with this hell job…but it was a pretty fun hell. Later.” But the sisters are in agreement: they want Fuutarou to continue tutoring them. So they devise a plan. On Christmas Eve, while Fuu is acting as a crier for a cake shop, the five sisters approach him and ask if he’ll deliver a cake to their place. His clearly awesome boss lets him off work early, urging him to have a Merry Christmas.

When they ask him back, he says he already blew his second chance, and now believes it was only his “selfish ends” that held them back, to which he can no longer in good conscience subject them. The newly short-haired Nino gets in Fuu’s face, telling him they’ve only made it this far because of that selfishness, and he can’t stop being selfish now.

When he reminds them that their father has forbidden him from entering their house again, they direct his gaze to the building behind them: with Ichika’s new acting salary, they’ve rented a new place where he’ll always be welcome. Yotsuba inexplicably tosses the five keycards into the air, and in trying to catch them, Fuu slips and falls into the water. To his shock, all five quints jump in after him. All for one and one for all, to be sure!

After surfacing, he spots the rolled fortune Rena gave him, to open once he “learned to accept himself”. But at the same time, Nino cramps up and can’t swim, and Fuutarou abandons the fortune to rescue her, obviously. But maybe he never needed to read the fortune, because when everyone is out of the river, he rips up the résumé of his replacement and decides he’ll stay on as their tutor after all. As for Nino, her heart is beating like a jackrabbit and it may well have less to do with almost drowning and more to do with who saved her.

QQ started out totally scattering the quints, but it’s clear that besides the fact they complement each other and make up for their shortcomings, the one thing that brings them back together this week is the desire to keep Fuutarou in their life, as the one who will help them realize their best selves.

While him calling their dad was an obvious clue, his sudden resignation still felt abrupt, and hit me as hard as the sisters, so I tip my cap to the show for keeping me off balance. It was also a wonderfully brisk affair, with resolutions to this arc coming fast and furious without feeling rushed or inorganic (though part of me was hoping they’d address the whole “jumping into freezing water” thing). I’m looking forward to their next tutoring session in their new, less snazzy digs!

Episode Four Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Nino: Between her lovely sisterly tea time with Miku, to her portrayal of “Cranky Yotsuba”; from making up with Itsuki to her efforts to get Fuu back; from being the only quint who Fuu needed to rescue to her cute new ‘do, it’s another easy win for Best Girl Nino.  Total Points: 19 (1st)
  2. Itsuki: No Itsuki-at-the-Uesugis this week, but she was as wonderful in her making-up scene with Nino as she was wonderfully terrible at impersonating Yotsuba. She also had a moment where she channeled Fuutarou. She and Nino are pulling away from the pack. Total Points: 16 (2nd)
  3. Miku: Came close to tying Itsuki this week. She was so damn cool in that tea scene, describing to Nino why they belong together. She also had the highest test scores of all the quints! Total Points: 9 (3rd)
  4. Yotsuba: Glad her track crisis didn’t drag on any longer, as it felt like a rehash of something not that engaging to begin with. Nice tackle of that creepy groper, but otherwise didn’t distinguish herself. Total Points: 8 (Tied for 4th)
  5. Ichika: I hate to rank her last when she’s footing the bulk of the rent for the quints’ new place, but yeah…she didn’t do much this week! Total Points: 8 (5rd)

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 15 – Leaving the Nest

Nino insists Fuutarou take a shower to thoroughly wash off the river, but mostly wanted someone to talk to and break the monotony of her solitary hotel life…plus she felt bad that he looked so depressed! She gets Fuutarou to tell the full story of his encounter with Kyoto Mystery Girl…which lasted far longer than I had originally thought!

Sleep-deprived or not, there’s virtually no way “Rena” was a hallucination, yet remains an baffling enigma. She asks him to tell her about the students he’s tutoring as if she’s not one of them, but then why does she not only look just like one of them, but blushes when he describes them one by one with perfect accuracy?

Rena tells Fuutarou he seems like someone who is “needed” now, and takes her leave, returning his student ID but keeping the photo of them, because, as she says, “they’ll never meet again.” She tosses him a rolled fortune and tells him to open it when he’s learned to “accept” himself. When he tries to follow her, he falls out of the boat and into the river.

The story moves Nino to tears, and she assures him “at least one person on this planet” would fall for an “insensitive guy” like him. Right on cue, she notices he’s wearing nothing but a tiny towel and is scandalized…yet can’t help peer through her fingers! Fuu learns she taped his study packet back together and has been working on it.

She apologizes to Fuu for her behavior, but won’t go home and make up with Itsuki, who had never slapped her before. Itsuki, meanwhile, has become way too comfortable at the Uesugi residence for Fuu’s taste. The next day, Fuu shows up at Nino’s hotel again, and she tells him about how she feels like her four sisters flew away from their nest, leaving only her behind—it’s why she keeps her hair the same length it was five years ago.

Fuu tells Nino that you can’t change how people change, but have to accept that change and whatever it brings. One part of Nino’s past she isn’t ready to forget is her brief time with Fuu’s cousin “Kintarou,” so she changes gears by having Fuu arrange for them to meet again.

A classic sitcom scenario then plays out, with Fuu having to spend the day with Nino as Kintarou and answering her phone calls for advice about his “cousin”. He slips up more than once, calling Nino by her first name, letting slip he knows she’s a good cook, then finally telling her he doesn’t care about their exams, but just wants the five of them back together.

Nino doesn’t ever let on that she knows Kintarou is Fuu in disguise until he’s ready to confess. She claims to Fuu at the first-floor café that she thinks Kintarou was about to ask her out. She then holds out her hand to give him a handshake of gratitude, only to pull up his sleeve to reveal the bracelet she just returned to Kintarou.

Whether Nino thinks the previous Kintarou she met was the real one, or she knew Fuu was Kintarou all along isn’t 100% clear, but what is clear as day is her expression of hurt and disappointment, which is the last thing Fuu sees before succumbing to the drug she slipped in his iced coffee. While it was played for laughs when she drugged him in the first season, it hits different here, especially after the heart-to-hearts they’ve had since then.

It’s an abrupt end to the Nino storyline, as she ends up checking out of the hotel, leaving Fuu in the lurch. I do wish he had had the chance to make clear there never was any Kintarou and properly ask for forgiveness, but Nino seems to have made her own ruling on the matter, and so we move on to the other sisters.

After forcing Itsuki to wake up on time (she forgets where she is and thinks Nino is trying waking her), the two of them try to get a bead on Yotsuba’s situation with the track team. Her coach doesn’t care about exams, and is willing to use Yotsuba as long as she lets herself be used…which is always.

Fuu has to resort to running with Yotsuba while quizzing her, ultimately resulting in him tripping over his own feat and into Yotsuba’s caring arms. She uses that as an excuse to get him to stop running. Then we learn Ichika also wants to help her little sister, even going so far as to brush her teeth like she used to do when they were little.

Ichika makes it clear that as the eldest, she wants to be there for Yotsuba and the others, and furthermore, tells Yotsuba it’s okay to quit if she wants. Yotsuba seems to want to quit, but doesn’t think she can, because it would mean causing trouble for the team.

Little does Yotsuba know that Ichika has been on the phone with Fuu and Itsuki throughout their conversation. She tells them she’ll be meeting with the track coach tomorrow. Hopefully the three of them working together can help “free” Yotsuba from a prison of obligation.

As for Miku, she arrives at Nino’s new hotel, having worn Nino’s spare butterfly ribbons to pass as her sister. Fuu had his change to try to bring Nino back into the fold and only got her angry by pretending to be someone he wasn’t. Now it’s time for Miku to have a go!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Three Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Nino: Not much of a contest here. Nino totally ruled the roost this week. We got Caring Nino, Sensitive Nino, Real-Talk-with-Fuu Nino, Crushing-on-Kintarou Nino, and, most controversially, the return of Criminal Nino. Don’t drug people! Total Points: 14 (1st)
  2. Itsuki: Total Points: 12 (2nd) Not as much screentime as last week, but it’s clear she’s become a capable, productive surrogate member of the Uesugi family, yet is also capable of faces like this upon waking up:
  3. Yotsuba: Nice to see number four again! Unfortunately, she’s pretty one-note, with her usual conflict of trying to please too many people. Total Points: 6 (Tied for 4th)
  4. Ichika: That was the most, uh, interesting toothbrushing scene since Nisemonogatari. Glad to see Ichika actively trying to help Yotsuba rather than continuing to float above everything. Total Points: 7 (3rd)
  5. Miku: Yout can’t score points if you don’t show up! Total Points: 6 (Tied for 4th)

Rena (Unranked): The show wants me to think she’s a sixth and separate person, but I still don’t know what to think. I was intrigued by the fact Nino is the only quint to retain her original hair length from five years ago. Could Rena be Nino in disguise, getting back at Fuu for his Kintarou deception? To be continued…

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 14 – Scattered to the Five Winds

While his family sleeps, Fuutarou is hard at work hand-writing comprehensive problem sets to ensure the quints pass the exam coming up in seven days. As usual, his burning of the candle at all five ends results in him collapsing into a “death-like” sleep before he can reach the door of their apartment.

Itsuki, frustrated that he’s late, finds him out in the hall, and her annoyance immediately shifts to genuine concern, then genuine gratitude to see how hard he worked for her and everyone’s sakes. It’s no surprise she’d react this way, considering she was the first to originally seek Fuu’s help…but it’s still lovely to see her smile behind his back.

Fuutarou is happy that all five sisters are present for the session, but things go off the rails shockingly fast due to the persistently butting of heads of Nino and Miku. First, it’s little things like Miku borrowing Nino’s eraser or Nino drinking out of Miku’s can (though joke’s on her, it’s matcha soda!) Fuu’s attempts to get them to get along fail miserably.

Then Nino, regarded as the most sensitive (as well as prickliest!) sister, gets fed up and heads to her room to study alone. When Fuu tries to stop her, she tells him to butt out of family business. When Miku hands her her copy of the problem set, she slaps it out of her hand. Then Itsuki gets involved, slapping Nino and ordering her to apologize, showing Nino how Fuu handwrote all those papers.

Nino is clearly contrite, but also doesn’t want to lose face (as she sees it). Above all else, she’s hurt, angry and disgusted that her four sisters have turned against her and fallen for all of Fuutarou’s “slick talk”. She then decides to double down on her stubbornness and move out.

When she accuses Itsuki of being a “domestic violence meat monster”, Itsuki decides to move out too. It’s a disaster! The next day (with only six days before the exam) Miku joins Fuutarou to search for her missing sisters; Ichika and Yotsuba are apparently busy with other stuff.

Then Miku asks a crowd if anyone’s seen someone who “looks like this” (referring to herself, not a photo), and they locate Nino at a luxury hotel, to which Miku is able to gain access by simply pretending to be Nino. Fuutarou pleads with Nino through the door to remember how she’s always been the one who cared the most about her sisters and their home, but that doesn’t work.

Any time Fuu, an “outsider” to Nino, tries to act like he knows them, it only makes her more resentful. However, she does notice the bracelet Fuu was wearing when she mistook him for “Rintarou” (and basically fell for him), and takes it off his wrist before slamming the door. As for Itsuki, well…as soon as Miku mentioned she ran out without her purse, I had a pretty good idea where she ended up: Fuutarou’s place!

She’s already having a second helping of Raiha’s curry when Fuu comes home, seems to borrow Fuu’s gym clothes to sleep in, and along with Fuu make an adorable Raiha futon sandwich at night. Basically every second of Itsuki at Fuu’s place is a gift, with her seiyu Minase Inori delivering a wonderfully warm and subtle performance. While on a moonlit walk, Fuu protests Itsuki continuing to crash at his place, saying a “well-off girl” won’t be able to survive.

Itsuki corrects him: only a few years ago (and likely around the time Fuu met Mystery Quint(s) in Kyoto), she and her sisters lived in poverty, due to her mother having to raise five kids all at once. When mom fell ill and passed, Itsuki took it upon herself to “guide the others” in her stead, which for Fuu explains why she slapped Nino. But Itsuki laments that she seems to have failed.

The next day, Fuu conronts Yotsuba, who has apparently joined the track team. She apparently couldn’t say no to the captain, and he’s unable to get her to quit. He tries to reason with Nino, but can’t get past hotel security. With all the quints separated, his prospects of helping them pass the next exam are in dire straits—especially with Nino saying she doesn’t care whether she passes.

With only four days until those exams, Fuutarou considers trying to drown himself in the river, thinking it might unite the girls, before immediately checking his suddenly dangerous thoughts. He then comes around to thinking Nino was right; he should have never come into his lives, which seemingly caused all this discord.

Of course, they came into each others‘ lives years ago, as the arrival of a grown-up version of the Mystery Quint appears before him, leading him to jump into the river after all. What the hell was that? A hallucination? Our boy’s been pretty sleep-deprived. Ichika in a wig, dressed for an acting gig? A sixth sister? (No, probably not that.) Who knows, but she’s gone when Fuu climbs out of the drink. I would think if she were actually there, she’d have expressed concern about him falling in!

That said, Yotsuba runs past the soaked Fuu but doesn’t stop, as she’s practicing for track (I alsonoted that her shoes match the one that snapped a twig while Fuu and Itsuki were on their walk. Not sure what to make of that except…is Yotsuba doing track to stay out of the way vis-a-vis Fuu and the other sisters? At any rate, dunking himself apparently washed away his discouragement, and he heads back to Nino’s hotel, where again he’s stopped by guards.

But when Nino spots him, part of her admires his dogged perseverance, part of her feels bad for how wet he is, and part of her doesn’t want the other hotel guests to be subjected to him, so she invites him up to her place. Maybe she’s cooled down enough to hear him out…or maybe she just wants to ask how he came to possess Rintarou’s bracelet!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Two Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Itsuki: The classic and presumptive Best Quint on most lists, here she really earns that top spot with the lion’s share of screen time. She showed all the sides: the eager student, the strict mom, the freeloader, the clear-eyed reminiscer, the moonlit walk companion…just a very strong overall showing. Total Points: 8 (2nd)
  2. Nino: Yes, she’s a huge pain in the ass, but also yes I love her very much and just want her to go home! Getting that super-expensive hotel suite is so Nino, who’d never. She’s also wonderfully dense about the Fuutarou-Rintarou connection. Total Points: 9 (1st)
  3. Miku: Good to see her standing up to the seemingly stronger-willed yet also more sensitive Nino, and defending Fuu’s hard work beside Itsuki. Total Points: 5 (Tied for 3rd)
  4. Yotsuba: Second straight ep where there’s just not much of her, to the point I’m wondering if she’s avoiding Fuu on purpose. Total Points: 3 (5th)
  5. Ichika: Ichiwho? A near no-show this week, though like Yotsuba there may be a reason: despite being the eldest, Ichika tends to fade into the background when sister conflicts rage. Total Points: 5 (Tied for 3rd)

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 13 (S2 01) – Kyoto Mystery Dream Girl

The wait is over. The Quints are back, and while production has moved from Tezuka to Bibury, this first episode looks absolutely fantastic, both in the crispness, quality, and subtlety of the sisters’ movements and expressions and the Hergé-like precision of the rooms they inhabit. There’s one major change I didn’t initially notice until looking back at season one stills: Fuutarou’s eyes are now amber instead of blue.

Anywho, Fuutarou is recovering from the ski trip flu in a swanky private hospital room provided by the Nakano sisters’ father. Nino is the first to visit him, but quickly hides when Ichika, Miku, and Yotsuba stop by. Ichika gives Fuu the week’s printouts, indicating she didn’t quit school like she was considering; it’s heavily implied she stayed because she’s fallen for him.

Both before and after the Quints visit, Fuutarou dreams of that magical day he met a mystery dream girl in Kyoto, and to his shock, finds that same pink-haired, blue-eyed girl sitting by his bed when he awakes again. It’s actually just Itsuki, who like Nino doesn’t like needles (the sisters are ostensibly there for vaccinations).

Fuutarou seems to confide different things to different sisters, and to Itsuki he opens up a bit about why he studies as hard as he does, which he does by telling her the story of his trip to Kyoto with his four friends. He had a crush on one of those friends, but she liked a different boy, and rather than hang out and watch that unfold, he split off from the others.

It’s apparent from the flashback that behind his brash attitude, bleached hair and earring, Fuutarou was concealing some self-esteem and self-value issues, calling himself “useless junk”. But when he’s falsely accused of taking sneak photos of a cosplayer, he’s bailed out by the mystery dream girl, who follows him the rest of the day.

The girl’s reasoning is simple: they’re both “alone and lonely” and thus need each other. Back in the present, Itsuki says much the same thing, dropping her tsuntsun side and saying they (as in she and her sisters) need Fuu to help them change for the better. Then Itsuki whips out a good luck charm she got from Kyoto five years ago…the same kind the mystery girl bought five of when hanging out with Lil’ Fuu.

The next day, Fuutarou arrives at the sisters’ home an encounters one of them nothing but a towel, having come out of the shower. He tries to determine who it was by having them all let their hair down. It’s at this point when we have to remember that while the five Quints are extremely distinctive to us due to their hair color/style and voices, Fuu can’t tell them apart at all if they’re not wearing their usual hairstyles.

That’s always been an odd disconnect between our visual perspective and Fuu’s, but it is what it is. The sister in the towel dropped five quizzes with “0” scores, so he has all five take another test so he can examine their handwriting. Ichika, the one who was in the towel, realizes this and tries to change hers, but the way she writes her “b’s” tips Fuutarou off, proving that while he can’t tell them apart, it’s not because he “doesn’t pay enough attention to girls”, as Ichika asserts.

As for Itsuki, she realizes who the towel girl wasn’t of consequence to Fuutarou so much as who that mystery girl in Kyoto was. She knows he thinks it was one of the five of them, but is fine with keeping it a secret for now. As for the quizzes, all five sisters scored “0”, which means they all need more of Fuu’s tutoring.

QQ is never not a ton of fun, both due to how great it looks, how unique and engaging the five sisters are, and how they all bounce off Fuutarou, and he them. Last season revealed that all five of them like or love him in one way or another (and with various levels of awareness).

It will be still more fun to watch what moves each of them make to get a little closer to him (I mean, someone’s gonna marry him!), and whether he makes any progress with his investigation into the mystery girl. But even if none of them date him and he makes no progress, I’m still looking forward to the journey, which is off to a solid start.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode One Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Nino: There’s something particularly adorable about how the mom of the group is so scared of needles. Also, she saw Fuu first!
  2. Ichika: For that shot of her at Fuu’s bedside…and that giant sweater!
  3. Itsuki: Probably spent the most alone time with Fuu, and is aware he thinks he met one of them (possibly her) years ago.
  4. Miku: Says Fuu is welcome to see her mole…
  5. Yotsuba: Seemed like the odd sister out…didn’t do much this week.

BokuBen 2 – 08 – Crimson(-Haired) Tide

After the previous episode somewhat flagged, BokuBen comes roaring back with a stirring, dramatic episode that introduces the biggest threat to the status quo/harem stalemate, without omitting its go-to tried-and-true romantic and situational comedy.

It starts simply, with an interesting reversal in which Uruka is chosen to tutor the athletically-feeble Nariyuki in swimming. The only problem is, Uruka is terrible at teaching! She just does what she does because she’s awesome. Enter the reluctant substitute swimming coach, Kurisu.

Kurisu, as good at educating young minds in all matters as she is bad at keeping her apartment clean, has an effective approach: getting Nariyuki to identify, acknowledge, and move past the fear that is causing his body to seize up in the pool. By closing his eyes and holding her hands, he’s able to swim just fine, after which Kurisu hands him off to Uruka as her swim buddies swoon.

 

I consider myself an honorary Uruka Swim Buddy, because I want her more than anyone else to break through her fears keeping her from confessing her feelings, and which caused her to create in him the misunderstanding that she likes someone else.

For some reason I did not expect Kurisu’s past as a highly competitive figure skater to end up providing both kinship and inspiration to Uruka, but in a brilliant example of Fanservice Done Right, while handing Kurisu her shampoo in the showers, Uruka immediately identified her toned body as that of an athlete.

When Uruka opens up about the pressures she faces due to lofty expectations both within and without, Kurisu gives her advice developed from experience: stop trying to keep calm, accept all those things and have fun. Uruka learns that Kurisu isn’t “cold”, as Fumino and Rizu once described her…she’s cool.

Uruka follows Kurisu’s sage advice and ends up winning her 400m Freestyle, by a large margin. Her achievement is celebrated at a school assembly in her honor, and it dawns on Nariyuki how amazing Uruka is. Later, her principal and coach present her with a life-changing opportunity to study abroad at a university in Australia with a top-class swimming program.

Uruka has never felt more like the protagonist of this show than this episode, from when she gets the opportunity to hold Nariyuki’s hand in the pool, and getting a glimpse inside thoughts and insecurities surrounding her swimming exploits (rather than exclusively Nariyuki). She’s not just MC’s Childhood Friend…whatever she chooses is going to have profound reverberations.

Unfortunately, Uruka can’t quite overcome her fears surrounding Nariyuki that she could to win her tournament…not at first. She can’t even tell Fumino outright when they meet at a restaurant; Uruka uses the thin and completely transparent ruse of “my friend” when referring to long distance relationships.

It isn’t until she hides under the table (and has some truly wonderful reactions, both facial and texted) when Nariyuki arrives that Fumino not only assures him Uruka isn’t dating anyone, but gets him to admit that while he’d hope whomever she liked would make her happy, that “he would miss her a bit” all the same.

Fumino realizes that Uruka alone isn’t going to be enough to break the logjam between these two. She tracks Nariyuki down and gives him one more bit of crucial information: the bit about Uruka liking “someone else” is a lie. How Nariyuki comes to interpret this remains to be seen.

As for Uruka, after giving it thought, she’s going to “do everything she can do and then cry”, shouldering any burden to realize her goal of studying abroad. She asks the principal and coach not to tell Nariyuki that goal. Does she truly intend to keep it a secret until it’s time to say goodbye?

There’s a lot to contemplate here. Uruka may be banking on the old adage that “if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be”—that studying abroad needn’t be the end of her future with Nariyuki, but the foundation of a better future with him. I also imagine even if Nariyuki knew Uruka loved him and he loved her back, he’d want her to go and do her utmost best. He’ll wait for her…right?

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 04 – Your Understanding Is Not Necessary

The Ezomichi-chan in Hikari’s head tells him to stop feeling guilty about being happy, and he decides to take her advice and agrees to tutor Iroha in math. Being one-on-one with her is a bit much, however, as the vibes quickly turn from studious to romantic…until Hikari’s mom and brother are caught very blatantly snooping.

Up until this point it’s been pretty smooth sailing for Hikari. He’s gained a girlfriend, another friend who happens to be a girl, and his worst enemy seems to be himself and his own lack of self-esteem. He’s just waiting for something to come along and take all this stuff he thinks he doesn’t “deserve” to have.

The universe obliges: Takanashi Mitsuya lures him out after school with a fake love letter (one Hikari knew would be a trap), and tells him to surrender Iroha so he can date her, or else. Takanashi is bigger, stronger, more handsome, more popular, and more blonde than Hikari, who has no clear answer ready for why Iroha is with him.

After getting punched, Hikari feigns a cold to go home early, but ends up in the same playground as a little girl who turns out to be Takanashi’s little sister Anzu. When Hikari brings up the possibility of his only recourse against Takanashi would be spreading false rumors online, Takanashi decides to use that, ordering Anzu to scream as a policeman cycles past, then claiming Hikari tried to take her home with him.

Takanashi snaps pics of the incident and posts them on the chalkboard at school, and within a day everyone has been convinced that Hikari is a creepy lolicon and shuns him even more than they used to. Itou knows the rumors aren’t true, as does Iroha, but Hikari doesn’t want them to get too close to him lest it make life difficult for them (Ishino, however, believes the rumors and expresses her disappointment).

As perfectly as Takanashi’s plan to toss Hikari’s already shaky rep in the dumpster, the reason he did it in the first place—to steal Iroha—ends in abject failure, when Iroha won’t even let him talk to her. Hikari is enough for her, and she’ll certainly take a kind boy like him over someone who spreads such harmful rumors for his own gain. Takanashi is flabbergasted, but perhaps it’s a teachable moment for him.

Meanwhile, Hikari’s brother Kaoru turns out to be very good friends with Anzu, who learns that Kaoru’s brother was wrongly accused of being a lolicon. Hikari’s mother (who is always a hoot in her loving yet frank disposition) can’t help but go with what makes sense, and Hikari can’t really argue with her; he’s never gotten along with people in general; for a misunderstanding like this to spiral out of control was always a distinct possibility.

Still, Hikari is lonely enough to still reach out to Iroha over the phone, surprising her. Unfortunately, it’s to tell her she should stop wasting her time with someone like him. She ain’t hearing it, and won’t listen to another word of his self-loathing nonsense.

She says what he couldn’t say to Takanashi: why she’s with him. He’s a nice person who cares about his friends and awkward yet loving. There’s no one she’d rather be with, so he can dispense with further attempts to convince her to leave him.

Iroha is on fire this week, between shutting Takanashi the fuck down with immediate effect, and making it clear to Hikari that she’s going to go out with the person she wants, and that’s him, damnit! If he likes her like she likes him, she’ll let her be by his side, in good times and bad.

The next day, Iroha is the one who encounters Anzu, and helps her up after she trips racing to her brother’s school. Takanashi tries to start up another talk with Iroha, but Anzu insists he hear her out: Kaoru’s brother is in trouble because he told her to scream when the policeman was nearby.

Hopefully Takanashi’s love for his sister and realization that he was a gargantuan ass will spur him into correcting his mistakes, setting the record straight about Hikari at school, and accepting defeat.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san – 06

It’s Summer Vacation, which means, presumably, that Nishikata won’t have to deal with Takagi’s teasing. But one can never presume when it comes to young love, as Takagi and Nishikata end up spending a lot of time together despite not being beholden to it by school schedules.

When Takagi proposes the two of them practice tandem riding during the summer, Takagi might bristle, but he doesn’t refuse. After all, while he’d probably never admit it he enjoys her company, and not just for the challenge of trying to best her.

Because Nishikata can’t pull off the tandem riding on the first day, he owes Takagi a juice, but can’t afford one of his own. Takagi first offers a sip from her can, which would be an indirect kiss, but then buys him a juice with her own change, because more than wanting to tease him, she wants him to be hydrated.

After a rainy day during which only the class president does her homework, Nishikata is late for his “appointment” with Takagi, and when she arrives, she’s in such a cute summer outfit he hardly recognizes her, so used he is to seeing her in her sailor fuku.

But there are too many puddles in their practice lot, so Takagi proposes they hang out anyway by doing a test of courage in a nearby “haunted” tunnel. Predictably, Nishikata falls for a number of pranks Takagi all too easily executes, capitalizing on the fact he’s scared even though he insists he isn’t.

Once they emerge on the other end, two young siblings passing by spot them and the sister deduces Nishikata and Takagi are another couple having a date. Which, sorry Nishikata, you kinda are. Sucks to be you! Oh wait, no it doesn’t.

The next day Nishikata doesn’t expect to see Takagi, who is on a family vacation. But when he spots her in the road (in another adorable outfit) he attempts to follow and surprise her, only for her to spot him first and devise a countermeasure.

She succeeds in scaring him, but more importantly, she wants to know what he’s up to, and since they’re both going shopping, she makes it another “date.” However, she did not expect a cicada to be under her hat, and almost falls backwards; Nishikata tries reflexively to catch her, but trips and falls himself, skinning his knee, while Takagi managed to regain her balance.

The caring Takagi comes out once more, insisting Nishikata wash the wound at a water tap. She gives him her personalized handkerchief to tie around his knee (thereby literally marking him as hers), then slips off her sandals and soaks her feet in the tap, inviting Nishikata to join her.

Nishikata had been having the “worst summer vacation day”, but Takagi counters his assertion by saying she’s having a good one because she got to see “a certain someone.” Lady, just tell him you got to see him. Either that, or fall for someone less dense!

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san – 05

Takagi and Nishikata’s delicate dance continues, as Takagi slyly inserts herself in nearly every aspect of Nishikata’s life. Knowing her teasing has caused him no shortage of distractions, she feels obligated to tutor him in math.

At first, she sits opposite Nishikata, reading a regular book and not studying herself. But when she notices he answered a question wrong, that’s her opening to sit much closer to him and help him through the equations.

Of course, while she taught him something he didn’t know, she didn’t teach him what’s actually on the test. Can’t be doing all the work for him!

The next day, Nishikata manages to pass with a 59, while Takagi is praised by the teacher but tells Nishikata she got less than a perfect 100. Then she suggests they engage in yet another game: whoever guesses closest to each others’ scores wins.

Nishikata has no poker face Takagi can’t read, so she easily narrows down his score to within three. She acts sincerely surprised when he guesses 92, but he doesn’t trust her face, and decides on 97 instead.

In the end, he was right with 92 the first time, while she was going to guess 59 but decided to give herself a three-point handicap. She gave Nishikata a shot, even though she didn’t have to, and both end up staring at each other quite a lot, which she clearly doesn’t mind.

In another skit outside of school, Takagi “coincidentally” bumps into Nishikata leaving a bookstore after  clandestinely purchase the shoujo manga 100% Unrequited Love. Takagi spotted him buying it, but again gives him a chance to tell her the truth. Naturally, he fails, but he also admits he lied, and begs her not to tell anyone.

Takagi decides she’ll give him a secret of hers, so they’ll both have secrets. She then tells Nishikata, flat out, that she likes him. Big move, Takagi! Nishikata turns beet red, much to her delight, right before she pulls back. Because he lied to her, she lied to him; she says she doesn’t like him.

Of course, that is the true lie; Nishikata just doesn’t know it, even though he has all the evidence in the world to confirm it sitting right in front of him.

Not satisfied with getting away with confessing in his ear or teaching him math, when Takagi is stuck under a shrine in the rain, she decides to claim his clothes as well. Specifically, she changes out of her wet school shirt and into his gym shirt. Later, he puts on her gym shirt, and notes how doing so feels kinda ‘dirty.’

Having swapped shirts and scents, Takagi proposes another game—guessing whether the rain will end by 5—and wins yet again. What she wins is Nishikata’s obedience, and even if he wants to hurry home so as not to miss his anime, he wisely seems poised to obey and follow her rather than run off. TV or nice girl…not really a tough choice.

Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 10

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It’s no coincidence Mamiko spends most of a scene scrubbing a pot she burned trying to make dinner. Mamiko wants to make up, not just with her parents, but with her sister as well. She’s scrubbing all the grease and grime that had amassed so that a new pot of soup can be made – a fresh start, without forgetting about what was said or what choices she made in the past.

As Kumiko volunteers to cook in her stead as she scrubs (she’s clearly the better cook of the two), Mamiko lays it all out candidly: how she thought going along with whatever her parents wanted was the adult thing to do, even though she wasn’t an adult at the time; how she resented Kumiko for being able to have fun with band; how she now regrets the choices she made, but is now ready to live her own life, hoping to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

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Kumiko always assumed her folks let her do as she pleased because they’d given up on her, because she had no promise. Mamiko doesn’t believe that; she just felt, as many older kids do, that her parents were taking a different approach with the younger kid; it’s what parents do. And before going to her room for a nap, Mamiko tells Kumiko to live her life too: be a kid when she’s a kid and an adult when she’s an adult; don’t be left with any regrets; learn from your suddenly awesome big sis.

While other friend-reconciling or concert-heavy episodes packed emotional and at times visceral punches, this may be my favorite episode of Euph2, because it’s the most personal one for Kumiko. She reacts to Mamiko’s news of leaving home with a stoic face, but on the train the next day, she suddenly bursts into tears. She is sad her sister is going, even if it’s what her sister wants…and probably needs.

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The episode brilliantly presents Mamiko as a parallel to Asuka, a connection I never really though about, but which makes perfect sense. I love how it’s Kumiko’s sister who provides a timely assist in terms of giving her a usable angle to go after an exceedingly stubborn Asuka.

Asuka is doing almost exactly what Mamiko did at her age, and while Kumiko didn’t do anything about that at the time – indeed, she didn’t even know what was going on, except that her sister was drifting away – she’ll be damned if she’s going to stand by and let Asuka go through with it unchallenged.

Challenge her Kumiko does, and Asuka, at least initially, is ready. She peppers Kumiko’s assertions with doubts like an expert debater. She keeps the focus on Kumiko’s argument rather than her problem, and even gets personal with Kumiko in a not-very-nice way, regarding her typical method of dealing with people.

She questions how someone like Kumiko, who herself tries to avoid hurting or getting hurt; who is “wishy washy” and keeps a safe distance; can expect people to tell her what they really feel, not just about Asuka coming back, but about anything.

 

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Kumiko is disheartened and temporarily stopped in her tracks, but the power of Mamiko’s words ring in her head and mix with Asuka’s euphonium, and Kumiko gets her second wind. Her voice rises in intensisty, tears stream from her cheeks as she confronts the heart of the matter.

She knows Asuka wants her father to hear her at the Nationals, and so does Kumiko herself. And she reminds Asuka that neither of them are adults yet, just high schoolers; and pretending to know everything and think “sucking it up and dealing” is the best course just isn’t right.

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Kumiko delivers an argument even Asuka didn’t quite expect, and moreso, delivers it with an honest passion Asuka can’t help but admire. Kumiko hurt her here, and let herself get hurt in return. The little blush on Asuka’s face is proof that that matters.

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Of course, Kumiko didn’t know if it would work when Asuka is suddenly called away. So when Asuka shows up the next day for band practice, Kumiko is gobsmacked. Many other band members tear up at her return.

And why? Well, Asuka proved she actually is special, at least when it comes to academics, scoring high enough in mock exams to have ammunition against her mom’s assertion she can’t succeed if she stays in band. Asuka takes her place beside Kumiko, and they prepare to practice.

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Asuka isn’t the only one Kumiko is surprised to see: Reina is also there. With everything that’s been going on with Mamiko and Asuka, Kumiko admits she’s kinda let Reina fall by the wayside.

By the look of Reina, I’d guess she’s either pissed off at the lack of Kumiko’s attention (doubtful) or has put the pieces together regarding Taki-sensei and his late wife, knows Kumiko knows, and is angry she didn’t tell her.

It’s almost as if the show intentionally made Reina and Kumiko such wonderful BFFs to this point so that when they hit a bump in the road, which seems to be the case here, it would have that much more impact. Of course, I’m just theorizing at some point. Gotta hear the next piece.

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Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 09

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Kumiko isn’t able to wallow in helplessness over solving her family’s problems for long: her band-mates have a new project for her! Why are Natsuki, Nozomi, Mizore and Kaori all going to her? Why else: Kumiko has proven to have a knack for stealthily helping people with their issues. She can act as coy as she likes: the results of her work are clear for all to see, and this week she’s celebrated for it whether she likes it or not.

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“You’ve always done well.” “There’s something about you.” “You see through people.” “You act like you don’t notice things, but you do…and when it matters most, you always have the right words.” All meant as praise, all of it well-earned. There’s no pretending she isn’t something she is. Kumiko facilitates. She connects. She breaks through to the heart of matters, often forcefully if need be. And she inspires the likes of Reina to want to just as forcefully “peel off” her mask.

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Reina has a lot of choice moments this week, not only when she’s so lovingly and earnestly describing Kumiko, to getting adorably flustered when Taki-sensei rises and shines before her eyes. But she also sees the photo on Taki’s desk, of him with another woman. As talkative as Reina was with Kumiko before seeing that photo, the silence on the train ride home afterwards is deafening.

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Kumiko can’t help Reina on this right now, she’s faced with her toughest challenge yet: Tanaka Asuka. Fortunately for her, Asuka wants to talk, perhaps because she too has witnessed what Kumiko can do. The close-ups of Asuka when Kaori ties her shoe then walks off are downright scary, while the tension in the early parts of Kumiko’s visit to her home is palpable.

But when it comes down to it, Kumiko isn’t there to be tutored, and Asuka isn’t there to tutor her. Instead, Asuka finally opens up to Kumiko, telling her how Masakazu Shindo “was” her father before he and her mom divorced when she was two. She tells her how her determination to make the nationals was borne out of a “selfish” desire to get her father to hear her play. How she hates her mother, but can’t do anything about it.

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It’s here where we see Kumiko, who had entered this mission utterly lacking any semblance of confidence or certainty, goes into, well, shall we say “Euphonium Mode”? She sees through Asuka’s misdirection. She notices her feints and her subtle leadings. And she even has the right words to say at the right time…not because she knows what to say in this situation, but because it’s what she truly believes.

We know from her inner monologue, she wants to hear Asuka play. And so Asuka plays us out, during the end credits. And Kumiko demonstrates another ability we know she’s getting pretty good at: bringing out genuine smiles. The fight to get Asuka back is far from over, but it’s off to a promising start.

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ReLIFE – 06

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With Hishiro and Kariu now friends, and Hishiro looking up her feelings on Google (then scoffing at the result that it’s “love”) I was looking forward to the show pivoting to focus on the third girl in Kaizaki’s circle: Onoya An. This episode certainly did that, but not at all the way I thought.

Things start innocently enough, with the possibility of Kaizaki’s friends visiting his bachelor pad becoming a very abrupt reality when Oga and An arrive for a study session. It’s great to watch him squirm as he hides any evidence of his true age, even as I knew in his haste he’d forget something.

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Two things he missed: his MD player and a calendar with work stuff. The first can be explained away by the simple fact he’s a fan of vintage electronics; the second he sidestepped by using the calendar to “kill a bug.”

The true test for Kaizaki comes when Oga is called away for work, leaving him and An all alone in his apartment (which Oga is too dense/pure to notice could be a problem). Yoake, who has Kaizaki’s phone mic tapped, does, and races to Kaizaki’s aid when he believes his cover is at risk.

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What ensues plays out like a high school version of a spy thriller, with An removing her childish braids and glasses, revealing she fell in love with Kaizaki at first sight back when she saw him working at the convenience store, and starts coming on to him, all while Yoake navigates the busy streets to race to Kaizaki’s place.

The entire premise of ReLIFE seems a little creepy at first, until a scene like this comes around and you realize there’s nothing to be concerned about, because Kaizaki is a good guy who knows his boundaries. Even if An thinks he’s 17 like her, and even if consensual sex with her is legal, he’s not going to do that, and not just because he doesn’t love her.

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At the same time, An’s long look at the MD, probing, knowing questions, and her little hair-and-glasses trick were all clues that she’s not 17 either, but rather another ReLIFE agent like Yoake—a far more reckless and cavalier agent than Yoake, to boot. But this was a legitimate test on how to deal with romantic advances from high school girls, and Kaizaki passed with flying colors.

I liked this reveal, a lot actually, because it was earned. It explains why An was so friendly and close to Kaizaki all this time without ever being the main focus. It explains her equally awful test scores. It eliminates the love triangle with Hishino for the duration of the experiment, while also opening the possibility of Kaizaki and An remaining friends when the experiment is over, since she won’t be losing her memories of him.

Even the show’s poster was a clue about An. And she wasn’t even entirely lying about “love at first sight” either. When she saw Kaizaki’s case file, she knew she had her ReLIFE subject. Only she couldn’t be his support because her training wasn’t quite complete, hence the transfer to Yoake.

While the cat is out of the bag about her identity, the other four members of Kaizaki’s circle are still in the dark, which should make for an interesting new dynamic; it also makes the episodes with An in them worth another watch.

At the same time, a great many cats remain securely in bags, like the details of how Kaizaki was found and selected, why An really isn’t his primary support, and who the heck Sample #001 was, and how and why he failed. Heck, An could be Sample #001, for all I know. And what do you know: the next episode looks to be a prequel of sorts, so those mysteries may not be mysteries for long.

One thing’s for sure: I’m barrelling through ReLIFE like there’s no tomorrow…but I can’t help it. Show’s too damn good!

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