Fruits Basket – 10 – A Ripple on the Water

It’s the day before Valentine’s Day, when Yuki appears to only have one admirer’s chocolate in his locker, but only because every previous admirer (and there were many) tossed the chocolate that was in there into the trash. Kyou is also a lot more on edge, and Tooru wonders why…until Kagura shows up at the school gates and it suddenly makes perfect sense.

When Kyou rejects Kagura’s request for a date (mistaking it for a request), Kagura suggests they have a double date with Yuki and Tooru. Yuki is ready to veto the idea, but Tooru is so excited he can’t say no. Then Kagura and Shigure both make remarks about him and Yuki getting along a lot better and runs away, not wanting to hear that. When Tooru tracks him down, she tells him it’s okay for him to hate Yuki…but she plainly doesn’t get why, and still hopes she can wipe away both lads’ anxiety and pain the way they did for her.

Kyou, Kagura, Yuki and Tooru all go on the double date (to an anime film of all things!) and it all goes swimmingly, but more interesting is when Shigure visits the main house to deliver Tooru’s chocolate to the other Souma members she’s met, and ends up talking with Hatori. What about? It’s hard to say; as Yuki says, Shigure’s a particularly hard-to-pin-down kinda guy, especially where goals and motives are concerned.

One thing’s for sure: he’s in league with Akito, and while Hatori believes he and Akito using Tooru as a pawn for some self-serving purpose, he’ll neither help nor hinder his efforts, but simply remain neutral. Shigure, for his part, laments potentially having to hurt Tooru at some point in the future, but whatever “dream,” “affection,” or “fervor” he’s after, it’s apparently more important than not hurting her.

From episode start to finish, and even with some glimpses of flashbacks, Shigure remains a stubborn riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. His long-suffering young editor Mitsuru (who is about to take a box cutter to her wrist when Tooru first meets her) just wants the guy to meet his damn deadlines, but just as there’s no figuring out a guy like Shigure, there’s no rushing him either.

I’m definitely intrigued by this gradual increase in the rumblings that Shigure is Up To Something, which is effective because it doesn’t come out of left field. We always knew it wasn’t mere altruism that led Shigure into allowing an outsider in Tooru to live in his home, any more than he harbored two exiles from the main house in Yuki and Kyou simply because he’s a cool uncle. I also suspect things may not go exactly the way he plans.

Advertisements

Steins;Gate 0 – 24 (OVA) – The Very Definition of “Unnecessary”

If this was the first episode of Steins;Gate you ever watched, let’s just say it’s highly unlikely you’d never, ever watch another.

But perhaps that’s unfair: this is an extra episode; it’s only meant to be a fun character supplement between two more vital episodes that aired. It isn’t meant to contribute much insight into anyone or anything, and in this it succeeds.

The plot, such as it is, is this: All the girls (plus Ruka) make chocolates, while Suzu worries about who Kagari’s valentine is. This leads to some funny scenes in her imagination involving Kagari with Tennouji or Rintarou.

Faris’ exasperation at no one knowing how to make chocolates (aside from Ruka and Yuki, who show up late) is amusing enough, especially when she almost fades into “pure white” from exhaustion.

But otherwise, to paraphrase both Kurisu and Amakurisu, it’s better to not watch and regret then to regret having watched. You’re better off watching the first show’s OVA instead.

Just Because! – 10

In its third-to-last episode of the Fall, nobody has a particularly happy Valentines Day, both as a result of bad luck, poor timing, simple misunderstandings, and an inability to resolve those misunderstandings in a timely fashion (hence the two episodes remaining).

Komiya Ena—who may be the more charming and less passive of the two girls, but is nevertheless someone I don’t think Izumi should end up with—still wants to give him chocolates, but becomes dejected when she sees him with Natsume.

Meanwhile, Natsume seems on the cusp of giving Izumi chocolates as well, but a LINE message from Souma leads Natsume to glance at Izumi’s phone, and Chekhov’s Phone Background goes off, upsetting her to the point of running off with a face Izumi has never seen. THANKS A LOT, SOUMA.

Almost immediately after Natsume retreats, Komiya goes up to Izumi and gravely removes the background before running off herself. And when Natsume finally stops running, she beams, happy to be so “completely serious” about Izumi, even if he has no idea his love is requited.

Frankly, I found the need for Natsume to see the background a bit of a cheap stunt, even if it was telegraphed as a potential point of conflict as soon as Komiya made it Izumi’s background.

I get it: these crazy kids take their social media seriously, but they’ve also proven capable of using their words with one another in person. Sure, emotions ran high, but Izumi made no real effort to go after Natsume or explain the reason Komiya was on his phone.

Speaking of communication, Souma and Morikawa meet up, ostensibly so Morikawa can deliver her answer—which she does, but not before they do a kind of performance piece in which she’s playing the trumpet while Souma pantomimes hitting a home run and rounding the bases.

It was…odd, more than a little corny, and not really effective. That being said, their exchange after their little “dance” went better than Izumi’s triangle, even if Morikawa asks Souma to be patient and let her get settled with college before dating.

Asking for another delay is cruel, but hardly avoidable. The two being able to see each other regularly is practically impossible, no matter how gung-ho Souma claims to be, he’s not made out of travelling expenses, and it wouldn’t change the fact they’d be leaving the gate in a long-distance situation, which is never a good way to start.

Ultimately, I’m satisfied with Morikawa’s position evolving from “no way” to “I don’t know what I’m doing” to “yes, but later.” As Souma said, she gave it a lot of thought and consideration. Could he fall in love with someone else in the weeks and months he and Morikawa are apart? Perhaps, but that’s not presently the case. If it’s to be, it’s to be.

That’s kind of the attitude I have to take with Izumi and Natsume too; if it’s to be it’s to be. Komiya decided to bike to temples all over the place to grab as many amulets as she can. It’s a gesture simultaneously self-serving (to impress him with her dedication) and selfless (she got them to ensure he’ll pass the exam). She both wants him to fail so he won’t go off with Natsume, and wants him to succeed because he’s studied so hard.

Izumi likes that part of Komiya, and so do I. She also gives him chocolate—albeit one small store-bought bite rather than her homemade sweets—and he gives her one of her charms back, in hopes she’ll win her competition, something he didn’t use to care about, but now does because he considers Komiya a dear friend.

As for Natsume, she’s going for it. She’ll get into Joei and then “lay bare all her feelings” regarding Izumi. Here’s hoping she and Izumi don’t end up at different schools, thus having same problem of distance and time as Souma and Morikawa. Don’t do that to me, show. I’m warning you. DON’T YOU PUT THAT EVIL ON ME JUST BECAUSE!

Just Because! – 09

Whew, there’s a lot to unpack this week. A lot happened!…or at least a lot seemed to happen. Morikawa’s new ‘do causes an unexpected sensation from just about everyone in her class, except for the one guy whose reaction mattered most to her—Souma, because he’s an idiot.

After her not-confession (which Izumi mutters to himself had the exact same effect as a not-not-confession), Komiya is awkward with him, and all the times they naturally bump into each other always end with her retreating wordlessly.

Souma and Natsume encounter one another at the shoe lockers justs as Morikawa starts to play her trumpet, which sounds like it’s beckoning Souma, particularly when Natsume tells him he should go to her. Souma doesn’t want to be a bother…but he is.

No matter, Natsume goes to Morikawa instead; she wants to know how she decided on her future. Morikawa answers earnestly as always, citing her devotion to her family and paying them back for their kindness, but also wanting to taste life on her own for a bit, hence a woman’s university.

Morikawa wonders if it’s just a matter of her not wanting to be an adult, but Natsume thinks Morikawa really has “her act together”, especially compared to her.

After some unintentional synchronization after school (after which she exclaims “this day sucks!” with a smile), the third time turns out to be the charm for Komiya, as she runs into Izumi again while he’s on a run. She runs into the konbini and buys him a cold tea; he goes in and buys her a hot one in return.

There’s a Valentine’s Day sign in sight, and Izumi tells Komiya it’s almost time for his least favorite time of the year. Komiya coyly replies that even if Natsume never got him chocolate, he should expect some this year. Did I mention how fun these two are to watch?

Before leaving hastily yet again, Komiya expresses hope they can “get along like this from here on out!”; after she leaves Izumi mutters that that’s impossible. I think Komiya kinda knows that; Natsume still probably enjoys a lead in Izumi’s heart, regardless of how few nice interactions they’ve had.

The next day, Morikawa’s brothers spot Souma on the baseball field and run out to meet him. Souma finally has the opportunity to compliment Morikawa, and while she seems grateful, there seems to be something on her mind.

That gets back to the continuation of her talk with Natsume, after she asked how Natsume if she had feelings for Souma. Natsume responds that she liked him, past-tense, in a one-sided middle school crush, but locked the feelings away, but they eventually dispersed naturally.

Natsume was satisfied with “nothing coming of it” and “not trying to let anything come of it.” She also says there’s someone else she likes anyway, and when on her way home, she can’t resist buying chocolates for that person…and has made the decision to change her university to Izumi’s recommended school.

That means, of course, Izumi’s now studying for enrollment to the wrong school! It’s an object lesson in why you should really be more open about their plans, especially with someone you has feelings for. It would have obviously been a nice surprise if Natsume had stayed put, but that’s no longer the case.

I definitely dig Natsume’s bold move in escaping her sister’s orbit, even if neither she nor Izumi are making it easy for each other to come together. Still, while I’ve instantly come to love the idea of Izumi and Komiya, that “impossible” from him certainly leads me to assume Natsume is the one he’ll choose, even if they attend different universities.

I’m okay with that; I like both girls but there has to be a winner and a loser. All I’m sure of is that the next two-three weeks are going to be a roller coaster.

Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 08

tan81

Ohta is injured, so Tanaka must fend for himself! In theory, of course. In reality, Tanaka can’t quit his dependance on help cold turkey, and asks (kinda demands?) Echizen help him instead.

Because Echizen is a kind and decent person, she agrees to direct Tanaka to her neighbor Ohta’s house, and while she carries her usual unpleasant demeanor, it doesn’t change the fact that she helps him nonetheless.

She’s clearly also helped out a bunch of other people, as evidenced by the numerous times she’s stopped on the way home by people thanking her for helping them.

tan82

Even when Echizen successfully gets Tanaka to Ohta’s, she sees how happy Ohta is that Tanaka made it there “himself” that she hides so Tanaka can take the credit. This begs the question, for Tanaka as well as me: Why exactly is Echizen a delinquent? Does she, in fact, only dress like one? It sure seems like it, but that contradiction makes her only more endearing.

The next day Ohta returns to school, but is limited due to an injured foot. Tanaka tries to abandon his listlessness that he might be Ohta’s “conveyance” the way Ohta is his most of the time, but to no avail. He has the will; he just doesn’t have the way.

That being said, Tanaka does let Ohta put some of his weight on him on the walks to classes, where Ohta imagines how great it would be if the floors, stairs, and doors were all automatic. With his injury, Ohta is being given a taste of the difficulties moving Tanaka deals with everyday, so it’s only logical that he’d start thinking of ways to make life easier.

tan83

Tanaka seems to do Ohta a solid by purchasing his usual sweet pan for lunch, but he gets tired on the way back, remembers that sugar can help with energy, and eat’s Ohta’s pan, leaving Ohta with Tanaka’s savory sandwich. Tanaka’s “various reasons” rationale (complete with face covered in crumbs) is hilarious. And who’s there to bail both out but but Echizen, adding to the mystery of why she’s a delinquent.

The day is more energy-draining than usual, making it hard for Tanaka to stay awake during unsupervised self-study, during which he must complete an English worksheet. He half-assedly puts down answers in Romaji letters (not English), then wonders why, if only about 80 countries speak English, they couldn’t “reform” them and make Japanese a global language.

Note there’s no megalomaniacal ambitions or malice here; Tanaka is just thinking of the most complicated way possible of eliminating English classwork so he can sleep more. The cut to the various people he could potentially ask for help was a wonderful sequence of unique personalities, none of them useful to his immediate needs.

tan84

The day ends with a fire drill that demonstrates how Tanaka’s dependence on Ohta could be hazardous to his health, as two classmates help Ohta out but Tanaka gets lost in the school during the evacuation, so used to being carried by Ohta that he is. It’s a similar problem as taking the bus or taxi or Uber someplace all the time, but never driving or walking there yourself – writ small.

When the day ends (with scenes of the town at sunset as gorgeous and tranquil as any show airing today), Tanaka thanks Ohta for everything, even going so far as to name a day after him, which, combined with his “Tanaka Antoinette” line, suggests he considers listlessness a kind of oblesse noblige or higher calling.

The next morning, he gives Ohta an Ohta’s Day gift: a booklet of coupons enabling Tanaka to walk by himself between classes. Tanaka’s attempts to be magnanimous again goes awry because his ability can’t quite match up to his good intentions, and Ohta must swoop Tanaka up and dash to class before the bell rings.

Clearly, Ohta needs to find a more useful way of reciprocating Ohta’s kindness, but at the end of the day, Ohta is simply happy that Tanaka is trying. It’s the thought that counts…but hey, some light physical training wouldn’t hurt, right?

16rating_8

Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 07

tan71

Valentine’s Day arrives unheralded,  and the specific nature of Tanaka’s chocolate—fancy and homemade with love—and Ohta’s—obligatory, cheap, and bitter—leave the two scratching their heads as to who it could be, while the ransom-style note gives it a sinister aura.

tan72

Valentines ends up coming as much as a surprise for Tanaka and Ohta as it does for all their female friends. Miyano didn’t think of them as the opposite sex, Shiraishi forgot because she was a loner for so long such holidays were always meaningless, and Echizen…for some reason she’s not in the running as a culprit.

That leaves…well, no one Tanaka and Ohta know. The show teases us with cuts to other girls. Tanaka has a very frank talk with Ohta about how he’s interested in girls, but waiting for someone to inspire him to make the effort to act. Then, not long after a pocket voice recorder (which is recording) falls out of Tanaka’s bag, his sister Rino appears.

tan73

Is Rino the culprit? Yes she is; the boys just don’t know it yet. At last we meet, Tanaka’s sister! I would not have guessed Valentines would be the vehicle in which she’d be introduced, but it’s clear she cares for her brother a great deal and sees Ohta as not only an enabler for his listlessness, but a rival for his time and attention.

Like all things in Tanaka, she’s not some awful crazed brocon little sister, but something a lot subtler. Giving Ohta dark chocolate and refusing to let him put milk or sugar in his coffee were inspired tactics; the voice recorder and ransom note…less so.

Rino was no revelation, but I liked her well enough and hope to see more of her as she works to be more present in Tanaka’s life outside of home, meeting more of his friends in the process. And knowing that Tanaka is at least romantically aware, if not particularly active, was another nice nugget in his character.

16rating_8

Ore Monogatari!! – 22

orem221

YAY! It’s Suna and Yukika’s time to shine! It’s their turn for falling into love and floating around on a cloud like Takeo and Yamato! It’s time for Yukika to create a new PURAIMUTAIMU to replace the one from Kindergarten! They go to the zoo with the show’s lead couple, and both seem to enjoy themselves. We’re headed towards a foregone conclusion, right?!

Well…not so fast, there.

Yes, they do have a good time at the zoo; initially Yukika talk to Suna or even be too close to him without becoming paralyzed, but when the other couple encourages her to make some memories, she pipes up, gets them into an animal trivia competition, and singlehandedly wins it, but only because they were counted as a couple when Suna takes her hand. It all looks very fun and pleasant and awkward in all the ways first dates can be.

orem222

But the problem isn’t whether they had fun; it’s a matter of magnitude. Suna had a nice enough time; he didn’t not enjoy himself. But from Yukika’s perspective, it was categorically THE HAPPIEST DAY OF HER LIFE. It’s the same with how they feel about each other: Suna doesn’t dislike Yukika, but Suna is the love of Yukika’s life and has been for most of her conscious life.

She’s placed him on so high a pedestal that his comparative wishy-washiness actually ends up hurting her. Last week I entertained the possibility Suna actually liked Yukika, but she didn’t let him finish his sentence, but in the absense of further evidence, we have to conclude he doesn’t like her enough. As much as we may want it to work out, and for Suna to finally start dating a nice girl, it’s just not going to work.

orem223

Soon Yukika becomes unable to continue working towards something she can’t imagine ever working out, due to that magnitude problem, and resolves to cut herself off from not only Suna, but Takeo and Yamato, cold turkey. This is an obvious overreaction,but an understandable one considering where she’s coming from socially (there’s a reason she’s so good at zoo trivia; she spends much of her time reading). What I like is that Takeo and Yamato don’t try to force the issue or over-meddle, they just give Yukika the opportunity to reassess her next move.

In the end, she too thinks severing all ties with the three others would be too sad, and Suna meets with her to give her a gift for her ten years of chocolates, and they reach a kind of closure, agreeing to remain friends. I appreciate the show didn’t try to hard to force Suna into what in hindsight was a pretty long-shot relationship. Suna is, despite his forelorn appearance and lack of girlfriend, actually a pretty content fellow, and it would take a much more powerful romantic spark than the one Yukika was capable of mustering to convince him to leave that place of contentment and try something new.

And so it is with a sense of logical resignation we consign Yukika to Ore Monogatari!!’s roster of “Losers”, joining Saijou and Ai and underlining that sometimes even when conditions are right things don’t always work out as perfectly as they did for our lead couple.

8_ses

Ore Monogatari!! – 21

orem211

For White Day, Takeo gives Yamato cookies he baked. You heard that right: gives her cookies he baked. And while he’s his own toughest critic on said cookies, the fact that they even exist bowls Yamato over; she declares them too precious to eat—and meaning it—but still takes a bite and is delighted with them. Finally, Takeo gets to experience what she’s been able to since they met: watch someone he loves enjoying something he made.

orem212

The Valentines/White Day proceedings were an effective and logical segue to the next arc, “Find Love For Suna.” Turns out there was no one to find; someone was watching him and circling him from afar all along, becoming a little bolder every year, especially after Valentines, and possibly borne out of the knowledge she’s running out of school years to follow Suna. This girl, Amami Yukika comes close enough that she enters Takeo’s keen “follower radar”, misjudging her as someone with malevolent intentions, then rescuing her letter from the river.

orem213

If any show can make a stalker girl sympathetic, it’s Ore Monogatari!!, as well as the talented voice of Kayano Ai, who gives Amami the right blend of delicate femininity and forthright determination. Judging from Suna’s photo album, Amami has literally been in the background of Suna and Takeo’s lives since kindergarten when she fell for him when him after he saved her from a thrown dodgeball. The trouble is, she hasn’t made any moves to get him to acknowledge her (all her Valentines letters were anonymous), so she hasn’t been acknowledged.

orem214

“Takeo Cupid” wants to help in any way he can, but he also realizes it’s Amami who will have to do the heavy lifting like, you know, talking to Suna. All she really needs is a push…or rather, several pushes, as she’s so overwhelmed by suddenly being in the foreground with Suna (rather than watching him from afar) it’s hard to breathe, let alone talk. Still, when he not only refers to her by name but the fact he’s known of her existence since kindergarten, she confesses her love to him right there in the street, with Takeo looking on. Then she runs.

orem215

This is where a second nudge by Takeo is needed. He brings her back to Suna (who almost seemed to be waiting for them), where she tells him she wants him to watch her and learn more about her before he gives her his response. I thought this was overly cautious on her part, since it wasn’t completely outside the realm of possibility he’d say “sure, let’s go out.” Suna isn’t opposed to going out with girls, just girls who talk shit about Takeo.

orem216

They exchange cell numbers, and an initial bond is formed, to my relief. But Amami needs a couple more nudges, as she finds it hard to break out of her usual routine of stalking-kinda-not-stalking. Takeo sends Suna off to walk her home, but she still can’t talk, so Takeo then brings in Yamato for a female perspective on the thing. She shares her experience having difficulty making moves toward a relationship, but as we’ve seen the benefits of making those moves have been more than worth the stress involved.

Ultimately, they determine the best way forward is for Amami, Suna, Takeo and Yamato to do a double date, in this case to the zoo, which Suna promptly agrees to. Takeo tells him he doesn’t have to, but Suna knows that, and wouldn’t say he’s going if he didn’t want to. That doesn’t mean he’s going to say straight-up “Yes, I want to go on a double date with Amami to see if it will work out because she seems like a genuinely good person and possibly a good match as well.”

Even if asked directly, he won’t answer that directly, but the seeming lack of enthusiasm can’t be taken as an actual lack of it. I imagine he’s just as interested to see where this goes as Takeo, Yamato…and me. Lord knows Suna has demonstrated throughout the show that he deserves a good woman, and not just because he’s good-looking.

9_ses

Ore Monogatari!! – 20

orem201

In a show full of romantic firsts, it’s pretty amazing OreMono!! has kept the Valentine’s Day/Chocolate episode in its back pocket…where one would assume it would melt! But here it finally is, with only four more episodes to go, and I think holding out was a good move, what with Takeo and Rinko so well-established as a loving couple.

I like how once more Takeo’s secondary friends come to him looking for help by having a group Valentines Day with Yamato’s friends. Suna, ever the stalwart best mate, deflects them, saying they had their fun for Christmas (and one of them, Osamu, even ended up dating one of the girls).

Even better, while Takeo appreciates Suna standing up for his right to be alone with Yamato, the truth is he doesn’t mind making it a group thing at all, nor does Yamato, for they are always looking for ways to spread the love they already have in droves for each other. Suna calls him a “do-gooder”, but c’mon now…so is he.

orem202

Yamato is also eager to spread her wide knowledge of baking chocolate-making with her girlfriends (including Nanako, who wants to make something for Osamu) while working on a secret side-project specially for Takeo. It’s great to see both the boys looking so forward to getting chocolate while the girls look forward to giving it.

Valentine’s Day arrives, and we’re reminded how popular Suna is with the ladies when a small avalanche of chocolate pours out of his locker. Takeo asks a question on my mind as well—what does he do with it all—and he simply says he accepts it, gives reciprocating gifts on White Day to those who gave him their names…and that’s it. As much as Takeo may want his buddy to find love, no one has “clicked” for Suna the way Rinko clicked with him. That many of the girls who pursued Suna talked ill of Takeo behind his back surely contributed to that lack of clicking.

orem203

The after-school Valentine’s Day group date goes swimmingly, with the guys convincing the girls to distribute the chocolates they made as if they were giving them to guys they liked. Each successive group event has had the girls gravitating less towards Suna alone and more evenly to the other guys. In a perfect world, each girl would click with each boy like Rinko x Takeo and Nanako x Osamu, but for now they’re content to exchange contact info and hang out sometime even without Takeo or Rinko around. Progress!

orem204

But Takeo is confused—stunned, really—when Rinko suddenly says she’s in a hurry and scurries off. He’s so shocked he can’t quite walk in a straight line and mistakes a vending machine for his front door, because he expected to get chocolate from the girl he liked, for the first time…and didn’t.

Now, I was pretty sure, with so much time left, Rinko was “busy” getting Takeo’s chocolate. Then Takeo remembers two things: she actually did give him cookies at the cafe, and he simply neglected to savor them; and she spoke with great longing for fancy expensive chocolates.

orem205

Takeo then decides to make up for the fact he didn’t properly enjoy Yamato’s chocolate buy buying her the chocolate she said she wanted, a nice subversion of the whole “Girls give on Valentines/Guys give on White Day” system.

But on his way out—and thank GOD Rinko was a safe distance from the outward-swinging door, or she would have been launched off the balcony—she’s standing out there with the biggest, prettiest chocolate dessert she’s ever made for Takeo.

And while they don’t end up locking lips, Takeo does send one hell of an air kiss off his balcony to Rinko, who catches it with giddy elation.

orem206

So all in all, it’s a great Valentine’s for Takeo. The next day, he gets one more surprise (as do we!) when a very pleased-looking Mariya presents both him and Suna with obligation chocolate, a day after Valentines out of respect for Rinko. After she takes her leave Suna says she’s a good person, and that people who fall for Takeo—his sister, Rinko, Mariya—tend to be good people.

That gets Takeo thinking that a good person is what Suna needs, not just some fangirl who thinks it’s cool to talk shit about his friend. And as they shuffle off to class, someone who is potentially another one of those good people watches them go from around the corner…a silver-haired girl who must’ve given Suna chocolates. Could love finally be on the horizon for our boy Suna? I’d be down for that!

8_ses

Oregairu 2 – 12

ore2121

Haruno gets the ball rolling from the get-go this week, calling into question Hikki’s efforts so far to find that mythical “real thing” he spoke of tearfully to reconcile with Yukino and Yui after his fake confession to Hina.

ore2122

Things seem back to normal for the three, but a tension remains, one that’s probably intensified by the presence of, say, Iroha, who is now all but an unofficial member of the club, while the balance between Hikki, Yukino, and Yui, was delicate before she showed up.

ore2123

The normalcy with a film of tension continues when the club gets Yumiko and Saki as clients, both wishing to make chocolate for the impending Valentine’s Day, a day when people typically give chocolate either out of obligation or affection to the recipient.

ore2124

Iroha uses her resources and the other school they worked with before to share resources and organize a big chocolate-making workshop. The girls cook with varying degrees of success while the guys taste.

Here, after a previous incident in the episode where Iroha seemed flattered Hikki didn’t consider her younger than him, Iroha seems similarly flattered when he praises her cooking skills, but hides it with another rapid-fire rejection before shoving a spoon in his mouth. Their push-pull, along with Kaori’s promise to make Hikki chocolate this year (likely out of obligation), paint the picture of a Hikki who’s more popular than ever.

ore2125

Then there’s Yukino, who seems increasingly nervous and flustered around Hikki, and both panic when they both touch the same bowl. Their behavior is plain to see, especially to Yui, who can’t mask her discomfort with the moment of closeness between the other two.

ore2126

Things get increasingly awkward throughout the workshop, especially when Haruno further stirs the shit, Orihara Izaya-style. The elder Yukinoshita bemoans the fact the three youngins before her are “boring”, and questions both the existence of the “real thing”, and calling into question Hikki’s resolve to achieve it.

As he eloquently puts it, Haruno is always there to remind him of things he’d rather not think of, just as another older mentor in Shizuka is less aggressive and cynical in her meddling. The olds are sitting around watching the youngs, and they want something to happen. I can relate!

ore2127

The cake is taken when Yukino’s snooty mom shows up in her Toyota Century in traditional clothing to scold Yukino for being out so late doing who-knows-what and expressing her fear her daughter’s on the “wrong path” to the future.

She claims to want Yukino to live her life, but maybe that’s something she told herself before Yukino got to the point where she actually would, a time that’s is already here. She can’t help but want to set her straight, no matter how intrusive it looks.

That puts Yukino on edge, and also increases the awkwardness between the trio, all three of whom, we must remember, are still, with just one episode left, trying to figure out who they’re supposed to be, and what happiness is supposed to be…and still struggling mightily.

8_ses

Re-Kan! – 09

rekan91

The mystery of who Amami is making a very specific kind of handmade chocolate for, and why, isn’t all that mysterious. But as always with Re-Kan, the emotional resonance, not the mystery or animation, did most of the heavy-lifting, and succeeded admirably.

rekan92

Not only that, as we watch Amami’s activities through the lenses of both her living and dead friends, all of whom have fairly reasonable theories, I felt the episode kept things in doubt long enough for the final twist to have some impact.

rekan93

Working with the info we’re given from the start, Amami is going to make a traditional Japanese sweet, the recipe for which she learns from the kindly wife of a grouchy old humbug who infests the park scaring the Valentines-crazed youngs away.

rekan94

The episode staves off the last piece of the puzzle with the use of editing and camera angles to keep the wife’s status up in the air until Amami finally presents the chocolates to the husband, at which point we see he is a widower.

Yet again, Amami did a favor for a ghost who couldn’t do it herself: make chocolates for her still grieving, lonely husband. She also doesn’t disappoint the ravenous Yamada or her friends by offering all of them chocolates, so everyone wins!

rekan95

When the grumpy old man is alone again, he polishes off the whole box of chocolates, and realizing his departed wife is still there beside him on some plane or another, thanks her, his heart having been lifted from the gloom. The final shot that tracks from him sitting alone on the bench to the shadows of both him and his wife, was quite lovely and affecting.

9_mag

Nisekoi 2 – 06

nis261

Ah, the Valentine’s Day episode. When girls torture themselves over when and where to give chocolates they slaved over to the one they like, and the guy worries about not getting any chocolate at all when we know full well the bastard’s getting chocolate from multiple vectors.

nis262

Don’t get me wrong: watching Chitoge squirm and kick herself for not being honest about the situation at all, and watching Kosaki actually muster the courage to present her one-in-a-million delicious chocolate to Raku, only to accidentally fall on it, it all very great to watch, because I’ve been invested with these girls for a while.

nis263

But there were moments during this episode when I earnestly wondered whether, in an anime world where Saekano, Oregairu, and Ore Monogatari exist, I’m actually outgrowing a show like Nisekoi, where romantic progress is always either tentative, temporary, or outright forgotten from week to week.

nis264

At least this was an episode in which every girl had their moment to shine (save Kosaki’s sister, who is still AWOL halfway into the season). But there was a distinct Wile E. Coyote-vs.-Road Runner mentality to their actions that eroded the seriousness and the heart a bit. As amusing as a giant chocolate Michelangelo’s David is, Marika’s angle in particular was a bit too jokey.

nis265

Best girl she may be, but Chitoge’s tsundere-speak reaches new levels of insufferability when she finally deigns to supply Raku with the friggin’ chocolate she spent all night making. To put so much effort and devotion into something for someone you love, only to present it as an act of charity and coincidence, isn’t just dishonest; it’s tiresome at this point in their relationship.

Then again, due to the increasingly episodic nature of this season, it’s hard to pin down exactly where they stand at all, which is a whole other problem.

nis266

Still, one character shows some backbone and perseverance in Kosaki, who at the very end of the day is finally able to present chocolate she can be proud of, which Raku doesn’t have to pretend tastes good. But where Chitoge pretended she was doing Raku a favor, Kosaki is so afraid of making progress that she almost immediately retreats, calling her chocolate “obligatory.”

nis267

Even so, she qualifies her statement to “a special kind of obligatory”, which transcends mere obligation into something more like, her love compelled her to give Raku the chocolate. Such obfuscation will only undermine her desire to make her feelings known to him, however, as even a direct declaration of her intentions may have flown over the painfully dense Raku.

Nisekoi still offers some of the best close-ups in the business. But the emotions those close-ups would be more potent if I knew they were leading to anything other than a dead end.

7_ses

Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 05

nag51

Last week was a compelling turning point in the show, when the streak of everything going Nagato Yuki’s way ends with a bang, with that bang being her homemade chocolates hitting the ground. This week, Nagato Yuki disappears, and it’s up to Ryouko to pick up the pieces.

nag52

To her surprise, Haruhi joins the search. Haruhi claims it was just a misunderstanding; that she was giving Kyon courtesy chocolate just like she gave to Koizumi. It isn’t her fault Yuki overreacted, or takes the ritual so seriously.

Ryouko is angry, first at Haruhi, then at herself for blaming others for what she deems her own failure. This is the angriest and most emotional we’ve seen Ryouko yet, and it’s the culmination of putting “Miss Nagato’s” hopes and dreams on her shoulders, while also possibly forcing ideals on the lilac-haired waif.

nag53

When the two finally locate that waif, sulking on a stair, they learn they misunderstood her running away, as did we. Yuki wasn’t devastated by the sight of Haruhi and Kyon, nor is she giving up; she merely felt like she shouldn’t be there while someone else is giving chocolate to someone, because she wouldn’t want anyone watching while she was doing it. Yuki puts herself in the shoes of others, and treats them the way she’d want to be treated. She really is a good girl.

nag54

But will she have the fortitude to hang in a fight with Haruhi for Kyon’s heart? Haruhi makes it clear she “doesn’t dislike” Kyon (i.e. she likes him) when Yuki asks her point blank (and good for her for doing so!) so it’s no longer a one-horse race. But Yuki is game for now, and Haruhi wishes her rival luck.

nag55

Yuki finally, finally delivers the chocolates to Kyon, with trembling hands and a face so red he really should know how much this means to her. He opens them eats them, praises their taste and Yuki and thanks her. He does everything he should do considering what he was presented with, but it isn’t enough. Someone like Kyon needs a clear-as-crystal confession or it’s going to sail over him.

nag56

With nothing else to do but watch from a secluded spot, Ryouko decries the fact it doesn’t seem to be going so smoothly, while Haruhi, nervously playing with her shoe thinks she understands at least part of how Yuki feels, and how giving something to someone, as a courtesy or not, is still an achievement to be proud of.

Haruhi looks particularly weary when Yuki seems to be going in for the confession, but a terribly-timed tackle by Tsuruya causes Yuki to fall to the ground and Kyon to land on her chest, ruining her chance once more. Haruhi seems more than a little relieved by the Tsuruya ex machina.

nag57

While this week did resort to some standard rom-com stall tactics, I appreciated how it kept things tough for Yuki, and more importantly, brought Ryouko’s formerly flawless facilitating powers down to earth. In one of her better lines, told in her temporary rage, Ryouko tells Haruhi “you’re the kind of person who can act to make what you want happen”—referencing Haruhi’s supernatural powers in the original series—compared to Yuki, who has trouble making anything at all happen.

But after this week, Ryouko and Haruhi seem like something resembling friends, their bond forged in large part because of Yuki: Ryouko’s devotion to her, and Haruhi’s competition with her. And I think Haruhi understands Yuki all too well in one notable regard: for both of them, getting Kyon to properly notice their feelings looks to be a Herculean challenge.

7_ses