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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Love After World Domination – 09 – Become Strong, Then Fall in Love

One minute you’re alone with your girlfriend in her dorm, the next, you’re staring down her eccentric, fanatical father and taciturn yet hostile little sister. The latter, Magahara Urami, is basically the protagonist of this episode, and she’s in crisis.

This…man, who is dressed as a common Gekko foot solider, seems to have turned her invincible sister into a weak, girly softie. The main flaw with Urami’s position is that she couldn’t be more wrong, but she has to learn that the hard way.

When Fudou, who makes up the fake name Mudou, assures Desumi’s dad that she only turned down the monster promotion after careful consideration, then insists he allow Desumi to attend college, both Urami and Pops are furious that an “outsider” is interfering in family matters.

Pops even starts a fight with Fudou, and demonstrates his carefully-honed “Art of Defeat”; i.e. the most stylish way of taking a hit. Pops leaves impressed with Fudou’s devotion to a cause and will table the university discussion, and Desumi sees him off with a smile.

Urami spends the night, presumably hiding in the closet from a big sister she no longer recognizes, thanks to “Mudou” “ruining” her. Growing up, Urami’s problems with communicating and resting emo face made her an easy target for bullies, all of whom were obliterated by Desumi. It’s no surprise Urami developed a sister complex.

When the sisters visit Gekko’s HQ and Desumi receives a royal greeting befitting her rank, Urami briefly believes that the badass sister she knows is still in there…only for Desumi to scold the foot soldiers for going out of their way, and get upset they don’t notice her new (adorable) hairdo. Urami is in awe of HQ and particularly Desumi’s co-workers and superiors, but Desumi would rather go shopping with her in Harajuku.

Urami is beside herself with frustration…how could the sister she loved and idolize become thus? She storms off in a huff and sulks in a dark alley, where she’s cornered by three lunkheads who aren’t at all concerned with age limits. She’s about to clobber them, but when they call her an “emo kid” like the bullies of her past and present, she freezes up.

That’s when Desumi appears, two delectable crepes in hand, and ignores the dopes entirely. When they warn her that they’re “bad guys”, Desumi puts on her game face and ethers all three of them so easily the show doesn’t bother showing the carnage, only the aftermath. Urami may think Desumi has “gone soft”, but the fact of the matter is she’s as strong as she’s ever been.

She realizes she once told Urami that one must become strong to survive, but now that she’s older she knows that’s not enough. If you want to survive and thrive, you have to fall in love. Urami returns home wearing the hairband her sister bought her. She hated the new version of her big sister at first, but having seen that she dole out carnage and be cute at the same time, maybe this new Desumi isn’t so bad after all.

“Mudou”, on the other hand, will be the first to be purged when she rises up in Gekko.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 11 – Merry Dried Sardine Day

Last week might’ve been the last “standard” episode of Takagi-san,  because this week is anything but normal. It’s suddenly Valentine’s Day, and for much as Takagi and Nishikata interact, there’s hardly any teasing. It’s pretty clear why from the moment Nishikata opens his locker and finds three boxes of chocolates from three different kouhai. For as predictable as Nishikata is, we’ve known Takagi long enough to know what’s up.

Major Kudos to both the animation team and Takahashi Rie for making it plain that Takagi is just a little “off” this week. She came to school early so she could put chocolates in Nishikata’s shoe locker, only to find three girls had beaten her to the punch. That Nishikata tries to hide the fact he got chocolates only makes things more awkward, even though he tries to find the right opportunity to tell her.

Meanwhile, Houjou interrupts Hamaguchi talking with the boys to nonchalantly hand him a bar of store-bought chocolate before sauntering off. Hamaguchi assumes the worst, since he spotted her at the grocery store buying ingredients for homemade chocolate. If he gets a Meiji bar, that means she doesn’t love him! Of course, even here, I knew Houjou must’ve just screwed up the homemade chocolate.

Oftentimes predictability can make a show boring or unengaging, but the opposite was true here. As we watch Nishikata struggle to tell Takagi about the other girls’ chocolate, even trying to intentionally lose a contest to cheer her up, it is wonderfully, heartwarmingly plain that winning and losing those little games doesn’t matter to him nearly as much as wanting to turn Takagi’s frown upside-down. And hey, he does—albeit accidentally when the teacher catches him goofing off.

Fortune favors Nishikata, as Takagi just happens to be walking down the hall when she sees him respectfully return the chocolate to the three girls who gave it to him. Takagi knows why. It doesn’t matter whether the girls made a mistake and meant to put it in another boy’s locker (the one who played the dog at the culture fest). Nishikata takes this entirely in stride, because he’s not interested in those three girls. He never was.

Their innocent mistake may have screwed up Takagi and Nishikata’s February 14th, but after school the universe rights that wrong by once again having the two cross paths by chance. Their timing is so precise, the moment Takagi finally decides on a text to send him, she hears the alert on his phone as he’s already arrived. It’s kismet!

What follows is one of the most serious, dramatic, honest, and beautifulest exchanges between these two in all these three seasons. Takagi admits she was bummed out all day because when she saw those three boxes of chocolates, she was worried Nishikata would mention them, and that she’d respond by “acting mean” again.

Takagi doesn’t like the part of her that’s mean when she’s jealous. I adore the empathy they express for each other in this scene; how awful even the thought of hurting each other makes them feel. That said, all’s well that ends well, and Takagi manages to give Nishikata a box of chocolates. Only the first box she gives him is actually full of dried sardines.

She just happened to prepare that little prank before he mentioned it being “National Dried Sardine Day” (because of how the numbers “214” resemble the Japanese word for dried sardines). That their two adorkable minds thought alike—and are thinking alike more and more—delights Takagi to no end.

The next day, Nishikata sees Hamaguchi sitting in the hall looking super-cool. Since the store-bought/homemade chocolate mixup was all cleared up, he’s resolved to confess his love to Houjou on White Day. Not only that, he tells Nishikata that’d he’d better confess to Takagi on that day too.

And I fuly agree with Hamaguchi…he sure as shit better! Or, if it’s Takagi who confesses to him, he’d better accept his damn destiny. I don’t want any cliffhangers for a fourth season…let’s get this done!

Shokugeki no Souma 5 – 02 – Tha Last Meal is Delayed

These first two episodes of SnS‘s fifth season weren’t supposed to be merely a two-part preview of a series that won’t return for many months, if ever. Yet that’s what happened, and it’s impossible not to approach this episode with that in mind.

With the BLUE Competition looming, Totsuki must pick three chefs (four if you count Erina, who’s automatically in) to represent the academy. They need not be in the Elite Ten, but any chef at Totsuki.

The resulting preliminaries are hastily organized and involve so many different chefs making different kinds of soup, it all ended up a bit of a chaotic mess—more a stream of things happening than the truly compelling culinary competition I’d expect of the best of Food Wars. This was the equivalent of throwing a bunch of stuff on the screen, be it dishes or “foodgasm” reactions, and seeing what sticks. Nothing much stuck.

Two of the winners of the three BLUE spots come as no surprise: Souma and Aldini, while the third is a bit of a surprise. Megumi gains first place with an initially “lame”looking dish of meatballs, until the judges discover that each ball contains a miso soup using miso from all of the areas of Japan. It’s definitely the most clever dish presented, both a symbol of her collected Good Times and a flavor tour of Japan. Megumi also reacts to her win with her usual fluster.

Later, while walking the halls of the school(!!!) Souma and Megumi are reeled into a first-year class at Suzuki-sensei’s request to regail the youngins of some Totsuki war stories. This sequence doesn’t last long enough to have much of an impact, but is merely the preamble to Suzuki staking his claim to ownership of Erina’s hand in marriage (despite looking a lot like an illegitimate son of her dad??)

Souma isn’t so ready to let Suzuki swoop in and marry Erina, while Megumi’s dialect breaks out in her head as she ponders a poential teenage wedding. Still, Souma accepts Suzuki’s challenge to a non-official shokugeki right here and now, with Megumi as the judge, all while Erina listens from the hall to people who apparently think she’s a prize to be won. Maybe leave it up to her who she’ll marry and when, my guys?

Of course, a cooking duel that was meant to take place next week will now come…TBA. And that’s pretty much that. Nothing much to do now but wait, and hope the wait was worth it!

One Punch Man 2 – 06 – Whittling Down the Herd

Don’t get me wrong: stuff happens this week; lots of stuff, and lots of it decent. The competition moves briskly as most matches are over in one move, as befits fighters at the top of their game. And while the monsters had free rein last week, the likes of Genos and Tornado—seriously strong heroes—evens the odds in a hurry.

So why did this feel so meh, so rote? A couple things. It felt like there was no rhyme or reason to cutting from an arena fight to a monster fight, making the episode feel unfocused. Second, there wasn’t a whole lot of comedy to be had. Aside from Saitama’s early KO of Bakuzan because he touched his wig, the episode plays like a straightforward shounen ensemble series.

And that’s fine, normally, but One Punch Man should be a cut above. A grab bag of minor skirmishes and minimal gags, along with what felt like a step down in production values, kept this episode feeling merely okay and nothing close to the excellence the OPM is known for. Halfway through the season, and the first episode is still the best, which is disappointing.

Looking beyond this episode, it seems clear Saitama is in line for a win, but if his identity is found out he will no doubt be disqualified due to breaking the rules. Other than that, I’m not sure yet what the monsters’ play is, or how they can roll in so confidently only to be slapped back by the cream of the Hero Association crop. What’s with taking that rich kid hostage? It seems like a small-fries move.

Hopefully we can cut through the chaff in the next week or two and get to the heart of what big threat, if any, Saitama & Co. will face. He may be content to spend most of the tournament on the toilet, but I guess I’m looking for the next guy who can take his punch!

Hanebado! – 13 (Fin) – The Other Side of the Net

Hanebado! seemed to take a bit of a nosedive in critical reception as it progressed, with most of the criticism centering on writing perceived as poor and character reactions and attitudes that were too often over-the-top or unrealistic.

Frankly, neither of these things ever bothered me, because the primary draw for me was always watching two players slap the shit out of a birdie (or shuttlecock, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing). Ayano and Nagisa close out their match, and the show, doing just that.

As such, the animation of the match and of the character’s reactions grows ever more dramatic and stylized throughout the roller coaster of an episode. Ayano crawls all the way back, and Nagisa and her knee seem poised to crumble before the might of her opponent’s honed talent.

Coach Tachibana looks ready to pounce at any moment should Nagisa desire to end the match to possibly preserve her career; to lose to live to fight another day. But she doesn’t give up, nor does she let her knee stop her from hanging in there against Ayano.

After several end-of-match deuces (ties), it gets to the point that even Ayano’s body starts to give out. Indeed, when Nagisa’s winning point is scored, securing the narrowest of victories, Ayano’s racket flies right out of her hand and hits one of the net posts.

Once Nagisa realizes she’s won, she bursts into tears right there on the court, while an exhausted Ayano is helped off by her senpais, and takes that opportunity to thank them for supporting her, something that catches them off guard, since she was such an unapologetic bitch to them not too long ago!

Even though Ayano lost, she doesn’t feel like she’s going to be abandoned, nor that it’s the end of the world. Rather, both she and Nagisa realized during the match that they both love and play badminton because it’s fun; and it’s never more fun than when you’re playing such a close match against someone on or around your level.

Ayano and Nagisa might just represent the two peaks of their respective corners (talent and hard work), though it’s also clear that Nagisa has plenty of talent (otherwise she wouldn’t have beaten Ayano, period), while Ayano works plenty hard (otherwise she wouldn’t have had the stamina to almost knock Nagisa off).

Ayano also confronts her mother and states that she hated her, past-tense, because she thought she was abandoned for not having any talent. Uchika repeats her offer to bring Ayano back with her to Denmark, but Ayano wishes to remain in Japan, where she intends to keep playing and keep getting better. Uchika is impressed and moved by her daughter’s words.

As friends Riko and Nagisa share a post-victory moment of friendship, Ayano also takes the time to thank her friend Erena for always standing by her side, as well as for persuading her to get back into badminton.

When Ayano and Nagisa next meet, the latter is being told to take things easy, what with her patellar tendinitis. But Ayano immediately challenges her to a match. She quickly switches back to “Evil Ayanon”, but not out of straight-up malice; her intention to inspire Nagisa, not provoke her.

It’s also a way of acknowledging Nagisa’s skill; trash talk aside, Ayano wouldn’t play someone she believed wasn’t worth playing. And so the two arrange to practice together more and more in preparation for the inter-high tournament. After all, the person on the other side of the net is a “reflection of themselves”. Beat that, and they can beat anyone.

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