Fruits Basket – 03 – The Different Shapes of Kindness

Yuki, Tooru and Kyou’s class decides to do an onigiri stand, and we see again the dynamic between Prince Yuki fangirls and Tooru’s delinquent friends, as well as the fact the class has warmed to Kyou despite—or possibly partly due to—his hot temperament. Oh, and because cute cats flock to him!

Still, when they criticize his idea and accept Yuki’s, he storms off to skulk on the roof. Kyou opens up about his long-held resentment of his “golden boy” cousin, who was always respected and trusted more than him, and excelled at everything he did better and faster than Kyou. He admits if he could be like Yuki, he would be.

That sentiment proves vital to Tooru as she attempts to figure out why these two hate each other so much. She gathers more intelligence when Kyou becomes the life of the party when the class plays cards, while Yuki is off rejecting the umpteenth girl to ask him out. She tells him he’s nice, but closed off to people, and that everyone says a “normal girl” isn’t worthy of him.

It doesn’t sound like a compliment to him, and it puts him in a sour mood when he ends up in Kyou’s presence. The two go at it verbally until Yuki loses his cool and kicks Kyou across the room. All Tooru knows is that this is about more than the fact they’re rat and cat; and probably quite a bit about Kyou waning badly to become the thirteenth member of the Zodiac.

In what feels like a non sequitur of a mini-scene, Tooru falls down the steps at work after her shift is over and encounters a strange blonde who speaks German to her and kisses her before Tooru runs outside. Obviously, we’ll see more of this person in the near future, but all I could do for now was chuckle at Tooru’s extremely flusteredness around someone seemingly not from Japan.

When Yuki arrives to walk her home, Tooru tells him he and Kyou are both so kind, and Yuki flashes a sad smile and turns to walk. Tooru stops him to say he can tell her anything that’s troubling him and she’ll listen and try to help. She’s so passionate about this point she doesn’t notice the drunk salaryman who shoves her into Yuki, transforming him into a rat.

While walking with Rat-Yuki, he tells her his deal with Kyou, which is basically that once the ice is broken it’s easy for him to fit into a group of people, who flock to him just like cats do once they learn the rough edges are only skin deep. Thus Tooru learns that Kyou and Yuki resent each other because they’re both jealous of the ways they’re not like the other. Tooru tells him how kind he is and how that draws people to him too, but Yuki dismisses his kindness as merely self-serving; phony.

When a typhoon suddenly hits, Tooru assists Yuki in protecting his secret base—a vegetable garden—from the harsh weather. Tooru tells him what his mom told her to be, which is a believer and not a doubter in people. When everyone is born they have nothing but desires, but gradually develop their own unique “shape” of kindness; their hearts growing with their bodies and minds. To her, Yuki’s kindness is like a warm, bright candle.

Yuki apologizes for bringing this stuff up, but she assures him she’s glad he did, because it means he trusts her enough to share his problems, and that they’re becoming closer as friends. Yuki promises to try harder to interact naturally with people at school, even if it’s intimidating, because that’s what he wants.

After a night protecting the vegetables, Tooru decides to use some as she spends the rest of the morning experimenting with onigiri in the kitchen. Kyou wakes up before Yuki, but since he’s cat-based he hates the chive filling, and would prefer something meatier. He makes some of his own, showing Tooru that he’s actually a natural at forming onigiri, though he doesn’t think it’s so great.

Tooru disagrees. In fact, she decides to create another metaphor to describe both Kyou and Yuki’s issue, which is not so rare: if a person is a rice ball and the plum is what’s great about them, they have “plums on their backs,” meaning they can’t see them. But people are drawn to both of them, just as all people are drawn to their friends, because they can see those plums. Hence, both he and Yuki are great.

With that, Yuki arrives on cue and force-feeds Kyou a chive onigiri to show him that one politely eats something someone has made for you, even if you don’t like it. Then a knock comes at the door, and Tooru finds a shy young woman outside, asking about Kyou. Could this be an admirer of his, or another member of the Souma clan? Whoever she is, it seems pretty clear she can see his plum!

Tooru could come of to some as overly preachy and poetic this week, but she’s so goshdarn cute and sincere it’s hard to fault her. She had such a good Mama, and duitifully honors her memory by being the best possible person she can be, while sharing the lessons she learned from  her.

For all the loss, grief, and pain she endured, Tooru remains a staunch believer in people, as well as in her ability to help those people. If Kyou and Yuki can’t find each other’s good aspects or make any kind of peace with each other on their own, then she’ll lend them a hand.

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Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 09 – Their First Sleepover

A typhoon that shuts down the trains brings good fortune for Kaguya, if only she’d simply use it and not make things more complicated. However, asking Miyuki if he wants a ride, thus initiating a “car date”, would be breaking her code, so she waits for him to ask for a ride instead.

Her hesitation ends up opening other opportunities for Miyuki. First, Chika offers to share her taxi, and Kaguya has to use her fear of lightning stealing her belly button to usher her out of the StuCo office. But then the trains start running when the typhoon dies down, further threatening the car date.

Kaguya resorts to sabotaging Miyuki’s phone battery, but he still doesn’t ask for a ride, and when her phone rings, she panics and runs outside where Hayasaka and the car are waiting.

Still, Kaguya waits outside, in the lashing wind rain, for Miyuki to come outside, get down on his knees, and beg for a ride. Instead, he races out of the school on his bike, resigned to get soaked but intent on getting to work as quickly as possible. He utterly drenches Kaguya in his wake.

The next day, Kaguya has a terrible fever and is consigned to bed. Someone from the StuCo has to visit her to drop off printouts, and Miyuki leaves himself open until Chika brings up the fact Kaguya talks and acts like a baby when she’s sick. Suddenly, Miyuki is motivated to be the one.

But Chika decides they’ll determine who goes with a game of Concentration, and she cheats numerous times, so intent she is on seeing Kaguya in her cutest state. All the time, I was wondering why Miyuki didn’t simply use his authority as president to decree that he was going.

Once he hears from Yuu that Kaguya was waiting outside for someone and starts to remember drenching someone, Miyuki does what he needs to win the card game, while shaming Chika into oblivion; Chika leaves the office the way Yuu usually does: pondering death.

Miyuki arrives to find Hayasaka disguised as a maid, and she escorts him to Kaguya’s room where she’s ransacking the place looking for fireworks. Chika was right: Kaguya isn’t just a baby, but completely off when she’s sick. Hayasaka explains that her ego is being suppressed by the fever, leaving only the id.

She then leaves Miyuki along with Kaguya, making sure to drive into his head the fact that they won’t be disturbed, the walls are soundproof, and Kaguya won’t remember anything he says or does while in her feverish state…BUT tells him not to do anything appropriate, wink-wink.

Miyuki is on his best behavior, but the fever-drunk Kaguya is the one who ends up doing something inappropriate. She opens her covers, pulls Miyuki into the bed, and won’t hear of him leaving her side. Miyuki is exhausted anyway, and so falls asleep.

Kaguya wakes up before him, the fever passed and of sound mind, and completely freaks out when she finds Miyuki beside her. She rouses him from sleep, shoves him out of the bed and her room, and asks a coy Hayasaka “how far she got” with Miyuki while she was feverish.

Thus ends the least romantic first sleepover either Kaguya or Miyuki could have asked for; one in which one of them wasn’t really all there, and the other was rightly very careful not to take advantage. I liked how this entire episode told one continuous story, though I doubt there will be lasting repercussions from the “sleepover” due to the unique circumstances involved.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san – 09

You’d hope Nishikata getting a cell phone would be a chance for him to grow up a little, but he only sees it as the trump card in his futile quest to successfully tease Takagi.

Perhaps he grew up a bit in spite of his intentions, since it doesn’t take long for him to cave and spout his whole plan to Takagi, who saw it coming from miles away. In any case, Takagi wants his contact info anyway, so they exchange it, and she promises to use it.

For calling him out on his attempted tease, Takagi appeals to Nishikata’s general honor by telling him he should make it up to her by helping her with classroom day duty; Nishikata does not resist. He’s tired because he couldn’t sleep after watching a scary video on his phone.

When he sends it to Takagi, she first teases him by showing him a picture of a woman in a bikini, asking if that’s what he sent, then watches the video, only to not be that scared at all because it’s not nighttime (and because let’s face it, it’s a dumb video).

That night, at the same time Nishikata is about to send her another scary video, she calls him to head it off, again correctly predicting his behavior (though that isn’t that hard at this point).

What results is what she wanted all along: to simply talk on the phone with Nishikata, for the first time at night, even saying it makes her heart flutter. Because of that, Nishikata can’t sleep a second straight night, though for a totally different reason!

Nishikata’s efforts to take a phone photo that will beat his friends’ lead him to beg Takagi to do her patented funny face so he can snap it; Takagi’s cost is high: he’ll have to do “whatever she says.” When she finally does the face, Nishikata isn’t ready. Then Takagi pulls out a toy snake and snaps three pictures of his reactions.

While she’s laughing at those pics she’s so happy to have taken, Nishikata tries to take her picture, but she snaps immediately into a normal peace-sign pose. Nishikata proposes they each delete the photos of one another, but Takagi refuses, and tells him not to delete her picture off his phone, though also asks him not to show it to anyone else, as it’s “embarrassing.”

While he may have thought he’d have a new weapon to even the odds in his cell phone, the truth is Takagi is far more adept in its use. It’s a tool, after all; it’s all about the talent of the person wielding it. So he’s merely given her another avenue to “tease” him, though it’s mainly a means for them to get a little closer.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san – 08

This episode is bookended by instances of Takagi making physical contact with Nishikata and Nishikata having to deal with it. He seems to be mostly fine with her holding onto him while they bike, but it was a long, tough road, and his ribs are ticklish.

Now that they’ve mastered the skill, Takagi says they won’t have to practice anymore, and gets Nishikata to say he’s both relieved and bummed out (though in truth its probably mostly the latter).

The second term starts in a typhoon, and Nishikata stands in the wind and spouts giddy shonen lines like a chuuni. Naturally Takagi spots him doing this, and gives him a chance to win her silence. He fails, yet again because he dismissed his first, correct guess as to why she didn’t have her bike.

The marathon segment is an apparent test of wills, as the two have stakes on winning – having to do what the other says, as usual. When Nishikata’s classmates ask if he’s going out with Takagi, his reaction is Pure Girl-from-100%UL.

He’s also been training extensively in order to be good at long distance, and initially employs a “mind emptying” running mentality, but emptying his mind only makes it easier for him to fill that space up with Takagi.

He gets trapped in a mind game in which he tries to run far enough ahead to spook Takagi, only for her to pull the very same trick on him, only successfully. And again, she gave him an honest chance for him to win (he merely had to touch her) which he simply did not take.

On another trip to/from school, the touching theme continues, with Takagi taking the initiative (of course) by starting a habit of poking Nishikata in the ribs, with the very clear implication that he is welcome to poke her back.

When he doesn’t, she beats him in another match (making a funny face to make him laugh), and rather than forbid him from eating rice or reading 100%UL, she has a simple punishment: all he has to do is poke her ribs.

He gives one half-hearted tap against Takagi’s side after much hemming and hawing, and Takagi reveals that while she’s not ticklish in the ribs, she is ticklish in the armpits. Again, Nishikata is welcome to test her claim, but he’s too embarrassed.

Summer may have given Takagi a few new opportunities to tease Nishikata, but it also brought the two much closer together. We’ll see what the new term will bring.

Koi wa Ameagari no You ni – 07

For good and ill, things take a major step forward for Kondou and Akira, though you might not have expected such progress early in the episode. Unable to come right out and ask if it’s okay to text him, Akira resorts to small talk, and ends up praising Kondou a bit too much for his taste while he’s working on spreadsheets.

He abruptly ends their chat by practically snarling the dreaded ‘You don’t know anything about me’—six words people who know plenty about each other say all the timeand the last words somebody who is awfully sure she likes someone wants to hear from the person they like. It’s no coincidence in a show called After the Rain that it starts to rain immediately afterwards.

Those words haunt Akira, but she’s determined to go to work and face the person who said them, even though there’s a typhoon approaching Yokohama. She gets there to find Kondou is out with a cold, and his absence, combined with the stress of their unresolves “spat”, throws her off her game, something Kase notices.

Kase, perhaps not thinking just about himself, warns Akira that Kondou may be trying to protect his position and uncomfortable about her attention to him, while she doesn’t want to lose something that’s “fun for her” again. It’s none of his business, but he manages to hit on what Akira is worried about most: that she’s just being a nuisance.

After work, as the weather gets worse and worse, Akira finds herself at Kondou’s front door, and it’s not as if he can turn her away in such conditions. Still, Akira hides her face in her arms, and tells him what she wants: to know him more.

Kondou apologizes for his earlier words, which he realizes were too harsh, but what he meant was that he’s nobody special who isn’t the adult she thinks he is. When she says he’s wonderful, he scoffs and returns the compiment, but she asks him why, if he’s nobody special, her heart aches so damn much.

Kondou demonstrates his affinity for pure literature by giving her a beautiful, almost lyrical response: youthfulness can be rough and vicious, but the emotions felt during that time become a treasure later in life.

Is she a nuisance? Is she not good enough? Both are absurd questions to Kondou. If anything, he’s grateful to Akira for making him remember the treasured emotions he felt in his youth but had forgotten.

The power is out from the storm, but lightning gives the room a gorgeous otherworldly light. This praise makes Akira blush, cry, and tremble, and all Kondou wants to do in that moment is relieve the anxiety of the girl sitting before him, even if he has no right to do so.

So he slowly draws nearer until she is gently in her arms. While he isn’t ready to call what he’s feeling “love”, he decides there and then that he’ll “get wet along side her in her pouring rain.”

Now, the translation probably doesn’t do that  line justice (and indeed may well do it quite a bit of harm), but I get what he’s saying: if she insists on being in his life with her rough, vicious youthfulness, he’ll weather it as they both weather the storm outside.

I’ll be honest, this scene made me very nervous, as in once-a-line-is-crossed-there’s-no-going-back nervous. But the show, mercifully, keeps things above board (though their two umbrellas falling on each other gave me a scare!), and the hug is just a hug.

With that said, I can’t underscore the stunning beauty and energy of this scene, perhaps the show’s best to date. Everything clicks: lighting, music (an orchestral version of the Aimer ED, “Ref:rain”), and of course, the emotions floating around. Our anxiety over how far this will go matches the characters’. The weight of that anxiety is balanced by the lightness of the ethereal atmosphere surrounding our protagonists. Really good stuff.

When Akira grasps his shoulders harder, Kondou promptly pulls away, tells her he only hugged her “as a friend” (riiight), briefly passes out (he is suffering a bad cold), then comes to and gets Akira into a cab.

The next day at the restaurant, Kondou is back but Tachibana is out with a cold. The rest of the staff remarks on the coincidence of the consecutive absences, but not in any way that would incriminate either party.

Akira is at home, in bed, with a fever and ice pack on her head. She then begins to fantasize about hugging Kondou…naked…and, well, you can surely connect the dots from there, though the editing indicates she keeps her hands above the belt.

Regardless, such is to be expected from a healthy young person who just experienced some of the closet and most emotionally meaningful contact with someone else in her life thus far. Her smittenness is tempered by the fact Kondou said it was only “between friends”

Meanwhile, Kondou smokes alone in the restaurant office, restless and doubtless uneasy about what he might have wrought with that hug, both in Akira’s heart and in his own. Here was a man, who if not content, was certainly resigned to a lonely life doing his job and raising his boy. That certainly seems to have changed. To be honest, nothing in his monologue indicated he desired Akira, but he does care about her very much.

P.S. After reading some discussion on this episode, someone brought up the possibility that Kondou’s “you know nothing about me” wasn’t even directed at Akira, but was a response to the Amazon reviews of the book that he wrote under a pseudonym. The “acquaintance” is actually him! I really like that angle.

3-gatsu no Lion – 38

3GL is delivered in chapters, not episodes, so it’s not unusual for chapters that go long to pour into the next episode. That can sometimes seem random, but it also keeps the rhythm of the show fresh. And while we get three very different chapters, they all contain the same theme: Rei getting over his match and subsequent evening with Souya and rejoining mankind.

The Chairman gives Rei a call and is relieved both that Rei is fine and that he’s taking care of Souya. The Chairman throws a little dig at Rei for being so good at caring for others for his age, but he doesn’t know how much of an affect the Kawamoto sisters have had on him, and Rei may not even know he’s paying their kindness forward.

 

The Chairman also lets Rei in on a little-known fact: Souya’s hearing comes and goes, and the doctors can’t pinpoint anything other than “stess” as the cause.

There’s a great melancholy in the Chairman saying “just leave [Souya] alone and he’ll be fine”, but he’s proven right the next morning, when not only has Souya taken off before Rei, but paid for his room as thanks for assisting him yesterday.

Rei has a tendency to see Souya as some kind of god roaming the earth, unaware of its strange customs; one could also call him (shogi) royalty; a young king who has never had to live in the real world.

And when Souya is gone, the storm is gone as well, replaced by an almost fake-looking blue sky. The blinding white light of his “Souya Storm” match is back up in the sky, hanging there as the sun. It all feels like a weird dream, and Rei gets lost in it.

The sounds of school and other people around him gets muffled, replaced by the crisp sounds of the shogi pieces smacking against the board…almost like a tinnitus.

With the epic “White Storm” over, we get a titular—literal—”Restart” that gives us a fresh dose of the always-wonderful Kawamoto sisters.

Their half of the chapter plays like an after-episode omake, as they give us step-by-step instructions on how to make the perfect pork juice-marinated soft boiled egg, accompanying delectably tender braised pork.

It was nice to check into the sisters’ warm little world—particularly now that Hana (her hair up in a mature bun) is over her bullying ordeal and looking forward to seeing Chiho soon. But I couldn’t help but feel a bit worried by Rei’s text declining the dinner invite.

The last thing we need is him starting to follow in Souya’s footsteps, making the Fausitan deal of shogi divinity in exchange for utter and profound lifelong loneliness as the sounds of the world around him fades out. Let’s not go there, please!

When the chapter returns to Rei, who is so deep in the notes of his match with Souya Shimada has to stop him from getting trucked, my weariness for such a development lingered. However, once Shimada brings up Nikaidou, I was pleased to discover I had nothing to worry about.

Rei is at first shocked Nikaidou is already out of the hospital and playing matches, then worried for his classically shaky health. Shimada also tells him it’s likely Nik is feeling depressed since his absences have forced him to forfeit some matches, making rank demotion a possibility.

But Nikaidou isn’t depressed; he’s right where he wants to be, and when Rei checks in on him, he’s defeated an 8-dan with an all-new move he’s hopeful they’ll name after him. Seeing Rei there only compounds Nikaidou’s manic joy, and when Rei sees how wrong Shimada was and how happy his friend is, he can’t help but smile and laugh—something Souya could never do. I reckon Rei will be fine!

3-gatsu no Lion – 37

Rei has known Souya for years, but like everyone else, has regarded him as some kind of shogi diety, floating above the ground on a higher plane of existence…and shogi. But thanks to his win in the Newcomer Tournament, here he is, sitting opposite Souya, a real, living, breathing human being. Rei isn’t sure if Souya has strayed into his world, or if he has strayed into Souya’s.

As their commemorative match progresses, it’s pretty clear it’s the latter. And you know what? Rei likes it in Souya’s world! It’s a pretty chill place where he doesn’t feel the same pressures or emotions when facing previous opponents.

He’s in the eye of the white storm, where all is quiet, and where there is nothing but shogi, the next move, and the moves after that. Calm, tranquil, and refreshing almost to the point where Rei feels bad for insulting an opponent who defeated him.

And Souya does defeat him, mostly due to an error Rei knows he made the second he placed the piece. In the review, he makes the right move instead, and the Meijin nods. When Rei looks at the palm of his hand, Souya speaks the words “that’s what it’s like.”

Whether Rei can now feel the game through his fingers, the fact remains it was a good match. I’m glad Rei didn’t pull out a miracle win, because that frankly would have not lined up with all we know about Souya, mostly that he’s nigh unbeatable.

Rei doesn’t like losing, but at least he knows when a win simply isn’t in the cards; the gap is too wide, and he hasn’t figured out how he’ll catch up, if that’s even possible. And it wasn’t by any means an embarrasing loss; his match with Souya engendered much lively discussion among their shogi peers.

Last week Rei got his first taste of Souya-attempting-to-act-human at the pre-match reception, and was somewhat troubled by the fact Souya has always been profoundly alone.

Rei, as we know, has a fair amount of Kawamoto in him, and so when the bullet train service is suddenly suspended, he takes care of a disoriented Souya, who proceeds to follow Rei around like a lost puppy.

That being said, Souya has been on this earth longer than Rei, and so whenever Rei can’t find what he’s looking for among the chaotic crush of the station, Souya always seems to quietly point out the proper way forward, be it the ticket booth, finding an inn for the night, and finding an exit that won’t get them drenched.

But yeah, if Souya isn’t physically deaf, he’s certainly close to it…as if he cast off the need to hear sounds because sound isn’t required in shogi.

3-gatsu no Lion – 36

We start things off with Shimada and Yanagihara inspecting a conspicuously cool and high-quality poster prominently featuring Kiriyama and Souya’s upcoming commemorative match. Takanori says he spared no expense because he needs interested eyes and ears on the match, and because Shimada and Yanigahara’s “sickly” match involving hacking coughs and stomach pains simply wasn’t the most marketable shogi, so limited resources have to be allocated where they’ll be most effective.

Rei isn’t concerned with the poster composition or style, but on studying for his very first match against Souya Meijin. He’s so immersed in game notes he initially doesn’t realize Hayashida-sensei has joined him on the roof.

Rei takes the opportunity to relay to his teacher that Kawamoto Hinata’s troubles would thankfully seem to be resolved, before once again lamenting how he wasn’t able to do anything. Hayashida asks Rei if she said that to Hina (he did) and whether she responded by saying that wasn’t true (she did). Results don’t reach people, and the world doesn’t revolve around them.

With that, Rei and Souya depart for their journey to the site of the commemorative match in Morioka, Iwate, and Rei is overwhelmed by the fanciness of the hot springs hotel room and facilities in which he’ll have free reign.

One thing I love about 3GL is its geographic accuracy; it only took fifteen seconds on Google Maps to locate Lake Gosho, the Tsunagi Hot Spring, and the Hotel Taikan where he’s staying. While strange fantasy worlds are cool, so are places I can actually go and experience the highly alkaline waters of the Tsunagi springs, and their naturally moisturizing salicic acid, for myself.

But like I said, Rei is easily overwhelmed, and what should be a haven of peace and relaxation is more like a storm. Granted, were I to go, I wouldn’t have to deal with an evening reception with speeches, Q & A, flowers, signings, etc. This is the big leagues, and it’s a lot for someone as reserved and bashful as Rei to endure.

Rei observes Souya, who is much older despite his looks, navigating the same choppy waters with aplomb…until he doesn’t. Souya apparently reaches his limit of human interaction before the festivities have ended, resulting in him delivering the wrong rehearsed answers to questions, and not reacting at all when a hostess spills wine all over his white suit, the only one he brought to Iwate.

Souya has always been a bit of a cautionary future look at Rei if he devotes his life to shogi and shogi alone. If Souya ever had something like the Kawamotos (or Kyouko for that matter) in his life, he doesn’t seem to anymore, and as a result, he lives for shogi and shogi alone.

One attendee calls him a “demon of shogi” who can only hold his “human form” for so long. However far in the world of shogi Rei wishes to go, he doesn’t want to go so far he doesn’t even know when he looks like he was slashed with a chainsaw.

And yet, Rei cannot deny that Souya’s total dedication and complete lack of distractions has made him so formidable a shogi player that he’s nigh unbeatable. When the demon emerges the next day for the match, he’s switched from his irreparably stained suit to traditional Japanese dress; all silver and white as always.

And Rei forebodingly reports that the morning of their match, an unseasonable typhoon began creeping up to the Japanese archipelago, so for the next few days he’ll have to deal with storms both within and without the shogi venue.

Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 06

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Still basking in the glow of the band’s great victory and progression to the October Nationals, the girls relax a little at Kita High’s cultural festival. Kumiko, Hazuki and Midori try their hand at a maid cafe (so passe), and on her break Kumiko and Reina hang out a bit; all the while with Kumiko wondering whether to tell Reina what she knows about Taki-sensei.

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The festival also marks a rare appearance by Shuuichi, whom I sometimes forget exists. He’s kind of a weird but novel male romantic interest in that regard: he’s almost never on Kumiko’s mind, and she makes the same exact annoyed noise whenever she spots him, yet she still relies on him to help her get through the haunted house. Shuuichi has something to say to Kumiko, but the poor bastard is blocked by Reina dressed as a pretty scary ghost.

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Throughout the festival, Kumiko seems almost restless, and sure enough the “nonchalance” ends when a typhoon arrives, and she and the others get back into their routines, preparing for the run-up to some serious Nationals prep. But when Kumiko gets home, the colorful fun of her school’s festival is replaced by desaturated colors, a lack of eye contact, and an older sister who looks to her like a hypocrite now that she’s threatening to quit college.

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Kumiko, so quick to do what she can to help her friends (without getting too directly involved, mind you) is far less comfortable with her own personal problems, whether it’s whatever the hell is going on with Shuuichi (ahem, nothin’) or her family strife, her go-to move is to separate herself from the situation.

That leads to her ending up in Taki’s awesome Citroen Ami 8, as he offers her a ride home when her umbrella breaks. All of a sudden, Kumiko is up close and personal with a problem not her own: the Reina and Taki situation. And everything she sees and hears in this scene indicates Taki doesn’t seem ready to love anyone else anytime soon; after all, he still buys Italian Whites and wears his ring on the anniversary of his wife’s death. A

s lovely and mature as Reina is, I just don’t see it, and while I’m glad this didn’t descend in to a farce of Reina (or Shuuichi) spotting Kumiko being dropped off by Taki, it’s looking like Reina is setting herself up for heartbreak, whether or not Kumiko tells her anything.

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Comet Lucifer – 04

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Ugh…I think I’ve had about enough of Comet Lucifer. One can’t dispute it’s plucky and full of joie de vivre, but no amount of pleasant roof repair antics or Disney-style vegetable dances are enough to make up for the abject stupidity of both the good and bad guys.

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Gus is on the phone most of the episode, pack just wants to cut everything, and Alfried is a no-joke pedophile. I lump Gus in with the other two stooges because he assembled this dream team. Roman shows up to the cafe aboard a giant mecha that looks ready-made to cause more damage to it, brings a cow which is supposedly slaughtered off-camera for a barbeque that night, though we later see the cow still chained to a fence. Is anyone feeding it? At the barbeque, Roman tries to force Kaon to eat meat, causing her to run to her crush Sogo, who isn’t emotionally available.

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Then the storm arrives on a day Kaon and Sogo go to school. Really? School? We haven’t seen them go to school once this whole show, and now the show wants us to believe they have to go at all costs? But by far the dumbest blunder by any character is Do Mon going out to help batten down his crush Vee’s house, leaving Felia all alone in the opened Cafe.

Sorry for all the italics this week, but does no one remember the events of the last three episodes? Or that Felia is a child who shouldn’t be left alone under any circumstances? Nope, they leave her alone, and Alfried’s surveillance leads the baddies right to her. Sogo runs away from another awkward moment with Kaon, right past the Hummer she’s in, runs in the cafe, and simply stands there with his mouth hanging open.

And don’t get me started about Telescope Guy.

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Akuma no Riddle – 09

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Isuke may have played Tokaku for the sweetfish last week, but unlike that relative of the smelts, Tokaku probably won’t be fooled like that again. But the fact remains, Isuke is pressing her attack, and Tokaku is not only wounded and separated from Haru, but a hazy memory of another storm continues to keep her from plunging her knife into Isuke during this current one.

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In order to finally rid herself of that “curse”, she has to arrive right at death’s door, where Isuke deposits her by tossing her out a glass skyway. The hazy memory finally comes into focus. Her inability to kill wasn’t a curse; it was a wish, both from her mother and her mother’s twin sister, Mako, meant to protect her.

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The sisters, you see, didn’t want Tokaku to have anything to do with the Azuma family business, which is, you might have guessed, assassination of the finest quality. None of this would be an issue if they were famous bakers. Actually, I might watch a show about a class of people trying to out-bake each other. As long as they know what they’re doing.

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But I digress: Tokaku’s grandmother had big plans for her, and they involved systematically molding her into a soulless killing machine whose name would make the entire world cower in fear. Granny was a monster, and she wanted to make Tokaku a monster too. As Tokaku’s decision to protect Haru proves, she failed. You lose, evil granny!

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Akuma’s murder-blocking memory is of Mako bringing her to a shrine, where she tells her to always remember if she should want to kill something; to remember that her mom will always be watching her, protecting her from squandering her soul on murder. But now Tokaku has found someone to protect. And sometimes protecting means being prepared to kill.

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Meanwhile, many a door was bashed to bits this episode, not from the typhoon, but from Shinya, who single-handedly decimates the school’s door budget for many years to come. But Haru refuses to be taken out so easily. Her scars are proof she’s a survivor, and that’s what she does, even when she’s afraid Tokaku is dead.

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It’s also pretty clever how Isuke uses Shinya’s deep-rooted trauma of bright lights (having been locked in a cellar as a child and photographed by evil men) to shut her down when she no longer needs her. Now even Isuke is out, leaving only the prim Sumireko and Nio, whose body is covered in terrifyingly awesome tattoos. We’ve seen some bad-ass assassins, but Akuma may have saved the best for last.

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Akuma no Riddle – 08

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Speaking from experience, it’s a very bizarre feeling to be in class trying to pay attention to the lecture when the skies outside grow darker and darker from a brewing storm. I wouldn’t call it fear, just unease, since I’m so used to darkness signifying night. When the skies are black in the morning or afternoon, it like nature’s trying to mess with my circadian rhythm.

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It’s under these circumstances that we hear Mizorogi-sensei lecturing about sweetfish, specifically, how they’ll so fiercely defend their territory, they open themselves up to a decoy attack. That sweetfish is Akuma, and us too, to a degree. Previously, episodes were fairly direct about who’d try to assassinate Haru next; this one decided to toy with us a little bit: would it be Bamba…or Inukai?

It’s another example of how this show always does or says something for a reason that will come into play later, rarely wasting its time. Many of the things it does in the first half play with our expectations, which we’ve built up after watching the previous episodes. We even catch a glimpse of the person in charge of the killing game, someone who one a past game herself in just six days.

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With the assassins down to four and victory in sight, Haru asks Azuma what she’ll be up to when it’s over, and Azuma has no answer whatsoever. All this time, she’s been using her time at the school to try to forget or avoid everything outside. Protecting Haru is all that matters: that’s the purpose of her existence. Thinking about the future doesn’t serve that directive.

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But it’s her absolute devotion that opens her up to the same decoy approach used on sweetfish. She goes after Isuke thinking it better to fight her away from Haru, but she never suspected that Isuke was the decoy—despite forging Bamba name—and that Isuke and Bamba would work together to separate the two. Also’s Bamba’s alter-ego’s name, Shin’ya, means “full night.” This is her time.

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Isuke has also figured out Azuma’s Big Secret, that she’s never actually killed and doesn’t seem able to, giving her a huge advantage in their fight. Isuke had a wretchedly traumatic childhood but was saved by her neighbors, one of whom is an assassin. She wants to win so her parents can retire, paying them back for their kindness. It’s a surprisingly sweet and selfless wish, and she’s damned close to getting it, assuming she and Bamba are allowed to share the win.

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Stray Observations:

  • Mahiru/Shinya Bamba is/are a character I wish got screen time. Here we see how her two opposite selves communicate with one another.
  • Despite having not ended in six days like hers, the lady in charge has been impressed with this Class Black.
  • It is pretty impressive that Azuma hasn’t actually had to kill anyone to get as far as she has. Hell, even Haru’s killed!

Nisekoi – 16

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Well, how about that: an entire episode devoted to Kosaki and Raku? I‘m on board. In fact, I’m just as giddy about it as the two of them were at the prospect of spending some time alone together, even if the other doesn’t know just how much the other likes them, because neither of them will ever get the point unless one of them tells the other directly, and possibly draws a diagram – which neither of them will ever do.

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But who cares about that? This week Nisekoi places Chitoge and Marika on the back burner and gives us All Kosaki, All The Time, showing that Kosaki may be down, but she’s not out, and she’s not ready to give up the fight. And one should never count a HanaKana character out. In addition to being almost sickeningly adorable and endearing throughout, the mere fact she asked Raku to come and work in her family’s shop is proof that she’s getting better at looking out for her own interests.

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This is also one of the funnier episodes of Nisekoi, from the manic energy of Kosaki and Raku during their initial nervousness, to Raku imagining all of the things Kosaki does in her room, calling to mind the final act of 2001: A Space Odyssey, to Raku cursing the typhoon for not being able to “read a room.” We enjoyed the brief appearance by Kosaki’s mom, who is the opposite of Kosaki in that she’s forceful and speaks her mind, embarrassing both Kosaki and Raku, but not saying anything that isn’t true, either.

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Her mom doesn’t have to convince Raku to marry into the family; it’s something part of him already wants to do, and the more fun he and Kosaki have together, the stronger the feeling gets. The only things stopping him are an impending mob war and the ire of the police commissioner, and at least three partially broken hearts.

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The episode ends with Raku going home, both he and Kosaki proud of themselves for the progress they made, but at this point in the game, I still think they should have said a little bit more to each other. Raku at least gets Kosaki’s e-mail at last, and she comes SO FRIKKING CLOSE to texting him that she had a crush on him, but deletes the words, retreating again.

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The divine punishment Kosaki worried about after such a perfect day with Raku is already in effect from what we’ve seen: despite being the perfect couple in so many ways; despite knowing each other so well, and sticking out to each other in photos, neither is capable of believing the other likes them.

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