Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 11 (Fin) – What We Like Never Changes

We begin the finale of what is likely only the first of two (if not more) seasons of a solid Working!!-like anime that focuses on young working adults and their relationships, with Koyanagi and Kabakura in a kind of domestic bliss, just enjoying a day off reading manga and drinking tea as a couple.

Narumi wants that kind of normalcy in her partnership with Hirotaka, so she decides she’ll arrive at his house unannounced. Neither of the welcomes she comes up with in her head come to pass; instead she finds the door unlocked and Hirotaka all but passed out, exhausted and starving as a result of playing games and doing nothing else.

Before getting into a bickering match with Kabakura about BL and finally getting him to agree to try it out, Koyanagi has a phone chat with Narumi, who is in the act of doing “the girlfriend thing” of taking care of her man like his mother would have earlier in life. It’s an outmoded dynamic, but there is no doubt it is the norm in Japan, and America as well.

Narumi quickly learns that her boyfriend will walk around his apartment naked after bathing in search of a towel, and that even the few articles of food in the house were brought there by Naoya, who performs the girlfriend duties Narumi wants to do whenever he sleeps over.

Kou’s route with Naoya inches ever so slightly forward, with it seeming far more likely Nao is unaware she’s a girl than not; perhaps we’ll see more (slow, steady) progress there in sequels. Meanwhile, Narumi takes Hirotaka out on a mandatory walking “date,” before remembering that not only is her favorite seiyu on a variety show, but that she specifically wants to see it with Hirotaka.

In other words, she wants to share what she likes with the person she likes. Who doesn’t? Hirotaka then puts actual effort into his running in exchange for another girlfriend-cooked meal, just as Hirotaka wants to just Netflix and chill with her after dinner. A very chill ending to a show that I suspect has a lot more stories big and small to tell down the road.

Takunomi. – 11 – Hot Pot, Hot Sake

Michiru is full of energy and kitted out in full yukata as all four housemates visit a shrine to pray for a prosperous New Year. Since everyone else is in modern garb, Michiru can’t keep up and get lost in the crowd, missing a chance to drink some traditional amazake with the others.

She also gets pretty cold with no coat, so when they get home Kae whips up the perfect meal for a cold day off: hot pot. Nao provides the booze-of-the-week: a special sake called Daishichi Junmai Kimoto, especially well-suited to be enjoyed hot (but also great cold). One thing I didn’t know: how quickly you heat it and the specific temperature results in different flavors being released.

Nao heats it up to “Atsukan” packs a rich punch that goes perfectly with the hot pot proteins, vegetables, and broth. The combination of hot food and hot sake quickly make Michiru very relaxed, changing into her PJ’s and cuddling up to Nao like she’s back home—where she was the talk of the town for her big city exploits.

Takunomi. – 10

It’s the end of the year, and Kae is going to Okinawa with a colleague, reminding Nao of the time they went together so Kae could get over a heartbreak (both have embarrassing pics of one another from that trip). Nao is too busy at work to go, and eventually becomes burnt out, so Kae, with Michiru and Makoto’s help, arranges a way restore Nao’s spirits.

That results in an Okinawan-themed dinner and drinking party, which immediately cheers Nao up. Okinawa is a relatively small island, so it stands to reason they use every possible bit of the pig in their cuisine.

In a neat fact not mentioned in the ep, some of the pork Nao and Kae ate when they went was likely descended from the pigs shipped to the island by Japanese Americans in Hawaii after WWII to help deal with the food shortage.

The perfect beer to wash down the rich, fatty pork is Orion beer, which like all beers brewed for tropical locals, has a light, clean, refreshing taste, a sensation that comes through in the precise animation of the characters drinking.

Makoto managed to find Orion beer at a store a little further out of the way, prompting Nao to embrace her sister, pronounce her love, and beg her to never find a man so they can be together forever (Makoto is understandably noncommittal).

The quartet also remarks how they’ve been together a whole half-year, and it’s been so much fun they should all go to Okinawa together next year.

As it is, Michiru is headed home to spend New Year’s with her mom, but due to all the Okinawan celebrating, she oversleeps and nearly misses her flight; another reminder that part of mastering drinking is making sure you can meet your scheduling obligations afterwards. Still, lots of good food, beer, and fellowship this week.

Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 09

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So, here we are, and it’s apparent that Nagate isn’t going to read into Yure’s bizarre assignment for him at all, both because he’s primarily worried about getting his head blown off, but also because he’s got nothing but dust bunnies floating around inside that uncommonly hard skull. Or, to be more charitable, he simply doesn’t possess the means to express how he feels.

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His obliviousness doesn’t keep Izana from being charmed by the “code” he’s using to take her on a date (especially when he inspects Chekhov’s Bed), and Yuhata and Tsumugi are also convinced that they’re up to no good, and manage to locate a vantage point to spy on them.

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That point turns out to be a gorgeous (and expensive) zero-gravity onsen with an omnidirectional view of the stars outside. When Izana, bless her, takes off her jacket and asks for Nagate to join her in the bath, she’s also asking him to drop the pretense, not knowing there is none; this really is a mission for the dolt.

That’s made clear when Izana gets a peek at his tablet, which has her grandma’s scribbling all over it; this was all a setup orchestrated by her, with no input or even awareness on Nagate’s part. Rather than charmed, she’s pissed, and throws a couple of cybernetic punches at her would-be partner in frustration.

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Where she’s wrong, though, is that Nagate “doesn’t care about her at all,” as no matter how much punishment she dishes out, he sticks close to her, determined to apologize, and make things right. It’s also an opportunity to tell her exactly how he feels about her.

But we don’t get to hear it, or see Izana’s reaction, or any other part of their evening. Like Shirou and Rin in UBW, Nagate and Izana are two kids who really like each other and are always at risk of being killed tomorrow. But while the UBW couple had a tasteful if sedate intimate experience that we at least got to see.

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Instead, Sidonia leaves everything to our imagination, cutting from the onsen to Yuhata and Tsumugi, watching from afar, unable to hear, like us. The next morning is a little more telling of what happened: the two enter the house, and while on the stairs momentarily forgot they sleep in separate rooms, because last night, they slept with each other.

That’s my take on it anyway, and it’s supported later on in how both of them act. Your mileage may vary on what went on, but I think the show’s point is to think what you want to think, at least until more information comes to light.

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All I knew was, after their little vacation, things were almost certainly going to turn perilous again, testing the bond they just took to the next level. The show doesn’t do this in the most subtle way, but in this case, unsubtlety is welcome.  When a disgruntled pilot defects at the sight of the new hayakaze armor, which looks to her like a kamikaze ram for the Gauna, Izana is called up to replace her on the recon mission to the dark side of Lem system’s ninth planet.

The kicker is that Yuhata makes this call to Izana. Yuhata, who stayed up all night worried and likely also upset about what was going on with Nagate and Izana. Is she Yuhata only acting in her official capacity as XO, and Izana truly the best person for the job, or did Yuhata put Izana on this mission as some kind of payback? I certainly hope it’s the former, but the latter can’t be ruled out.

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As for the mission, it’s one of those rare instances when Izana is out there while Nagate is on standby, and Nagate is a nervous, pacing wreck, more than ever if it’s true that they’re now lovers. He’s also concerned because Izana is attached to a device he heard the deserting pilot call a death trap, and we know that Kobayashi plays favorites wouldn’t hesitate sacrificing lesser pilots for a second if it meant furthering her goals.

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So like Nagate, my heart was also in my throat the minute Izana left the (relatively) safe confines of Sidonia…especially with three redshirts. The cloaked Gauna they find in the rings of Planet Nine is a nasty customer, and promptly takes out one redshirt.

Please make it home, Izana—the last and most important moment you have with Nagate can’t have occurred offscreen…unless, of course it is, and we only revisit it in Nagate’s memory or dreams. Then again, if Hiyama is right about Kobayashi putting Sidonia on the wrong course, even if Izana makes it back, everyone’s doomed anyway.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 08

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First of all, a hearty bravo is in order for the show’s opening, in which we see a totally different character battle some kind of cyborg in a Sidonia-style setting. From last week’s cliffhanger, I imagined we were suddenly thrown into the events on Planet Seven, so I was pleasantly surprised when it was revealed Nagate, Izana, Yuhata and Tsumugi were merely watching a very well-produced TV show.

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The fact they’re gathered ’round the tube after a hard day’s hull reconstruction, and that Tsumugi is getting more playful and spontaneous (sometimes leading to non-lethal accidents) all contributes to the family atmosphere in Nagate and Izana’s new home.

When Yuhata moves in and she and Tsumugi turn Izana’s room into a communal space with a kotatsu, it’s disrupting Izana’s ideal living situation with Nagate and Nagate alone, but at least in Tsumugi’s case, she means well. In Yuhata’s case, she uses her rank and the need for further conservation of resources to move in, but we know she has the sorta-hots for Nagate.

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Her increasingly lively household, paired with the strenuous labor of reconstruction, and the fact she’s dealing with fundamental changes to her body (both her mechanical and female parts), all contribute to make Izana look like a person who needs to relax and take a break.

Her ageless grandma Yure notices this, and also notices how Izana is starting to blossom into a younger version of herself. To that end, she requests that Izana wear one of her fetching old dresses and the two Shinatoses go out on the town. Those outfits strike the right balance of revealing (with that nice back latticing) and practicality (they still have carabiners in case of gravity fluctuations). Even Izana’s clear weariness with being dolled up like this doesn’t change the fact that she looks fantastic.

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Naturally, she runs into Nagate while trying to hurry home without being seen, and since their home is the same now, it makes for an awkward walk, but also a flattering one. Like myself, Nagate has always found Izana cute, but now that she’s more overtly feminine, he can’t help but blush in her presence, and whenever they accidentally touch, neither quite knows what to do with themselves.

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Nagate takes the route of passivity, but when he straight-up fails to notice Izana is behind him while he’s headed back to base in formation with the Tsumugi, Izana gets upset with him. Again, Yure takes notice, and decides to take matters into her own hands, knowing she’s witnessing a romantic stalemate in progress.

Nagate is never going to ask Izana out, or vice versa, so Yure puts it into terms he can understand: duty and orders; life and death. She suddenly summons him to her presence, timing how long he takes to get there, then starts to tell—not ask—him to go on a top secret snap “Cultural Properties Inspection” of the Thousand Year Village, and telling him to ask Izana to accompany him.

Yure gives him the distinct impression—in surely the funniest use of the show’s omnipresent schematics yet—that if he in any way fails to complete his mission to her satisfaction, she may sever his head with an explosive she planted in his neck vertebrae. What’s so great is that you can’t be sure at all whether she’s serious. This is how you move things forward.

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When Nagate comes home and discusses their “mission” with all that official-sounding terminology, Izana picks up on what’s going on, accepts that this is the only way Nagate can ask her to go on a vacation with him, and says yes. The couple’s body language here, and throughout the episode, really, is really well done.

All the while, their privacy is violated by a too-curious-not-to-look Tsumugi, who suspends Yuhata in the air so she can peek too. In the morning, they’re both kind of put off by Nagate and Izana’s not-too-subtle subterfuge as they sneak out one at a time.

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When they arrive at the entrance to the Thousand Year Village, and the doors open to reveal a gorgeous traditional building amongst a grove of cherry blossoms, it’s like they’re walking into another dimension. The metal and concrete walls of Sidonia are still there, but this place is a warm rejection of that cold science.

Izana is so bowled over by the sights, she doesn’t even realize she’s taken Nagate by the hand. But in a nice change of  pace, they don’t both turn beet red, quickly let go and back away. They continue holding hands, look into each others’ eyes, and say each others’ names. How romantic is that?

While I’m sure there are detractors to this kind of character-focused “Sidonia Lite”, I’m loving and savoring every minute of it. The next horrific threat could pop up at any time, and with the likes of Kobayashi in charge, it certainly will; but in the meantime I’m perfectly happy watching Nagate and Izana live their lives and draw closer to one another.

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Kimi no Iru Machi – 09

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Haruto tells Asuka about his “non-date” to FantasyLand with Rin, and she’s okay with it, but when he shows up, Yuzuki is there; Rin tricked them both into the date. They only go in briefly so Haruto can get a phone strap for Asuka. Rin admonishes him afterwords while he’s at work, and when he sees Asuka next, he lies about having seen Yuzuki, who visits him at the market to tell him she’s visiting his parents in Hiroshima. The next day Asuka is down, leading Haruto to think Rin blabbed, but it turns out she has to take care of her mother on the date they planned to go on their trip. Haruto tells her it’s fine, and they’ll make other plans.

Has Haruto’s relationship with Asuka devolved into one of obligation? Now that he’s gotten a taste of a date with Yuzuki (courtesy Rin), are his feelings starting to stray? In a word, no…not yet at least. As on-edge and dicey as things got this week, the episode still ends with Haruto on top of Asuka, again co-victims physics and their hormones – until his sister shows up at the worst possible time. Haruto may have lied to Asuka – AGAIN, the dick – this week, but he got away with it…for now. The fact remains he told Asuka he went with Rin when in truth he was with Yuzuki. Rin said she wouldn’t tell Asuka, but Haruto shouldn’t have been dumb enough to believe her and create an alternate story.

We know why he did it: telling Asuka that he met with his ex again in a date-like atmosphere wouldn’t have sat well with her at all, but let’s not forget, Asuka still trusts Haruto implicitly in addition to loving her. We think he loves her too, which is why he probably feels he’s “protecting” her by not telling the truth. But that’s bullshit; if and when Asuka gets the skinny from Rin, or finds out some other way, she’ll be hurt anyway. We’re not saying he needs to tell her everything, but he shouldn’t have to lie, and he certainly didn’t need to go out with Rin in the first place, especially when he knows what Rin is capable of vis-a-vis Yuzuki. We have a bad feeling about him returning to Hiroshima the same time the Eba sisters.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We said before the big plans to go to Okinawa had the feeling of a (relationship) death flag. That the trip is postponed doesn’t bode well.
  • Yuzuki was oddly game about the whole date thing, seeming disappointed when they decided to part ways, then relieved when Haruto called her back.
  • We’re imagining Haruto’s manager at Lawson: “What the hell are all these ladies coming in here talking to you while you’re on the clock? SHAPE UP, KIRISHIMA. Of course, he won’t…
  • Asuka’s layered reaction to Haruto stuffing his face in her crotch was pretty fantastic! We love Asuka to bits, we just wish she had a better boyfriend…