Ore Monogatari!! – 22

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 21

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 20

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Ore Monogatari!! – 19

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For most of the run of this tremendously touching and often uproariously funny show, Gouda Takeo has been portrayed as both a mensch (a person of honor and integrity) and an Übermensch (a goal for humanity to set for itself, given form). Yamato certainly sees him as a virtually flawless mate.

Yet when Yamato gets to sit with Takeo’s tough (and very pregnant) mom Yuriko, she—and we—get an entirely new perspective on Takeo. His mom still sees him as a little kid who will run out in the street and get killed if you don’t stop him. She’s also pretty confident Takeo is a wimp, in that he, like his father, worries about her too much.

Yuriko is basically handing her grown son on to another woman so she can care for him. She’s teaching Yamato a valuable lesson that she already intrinsically understands: Takeo is tough and strong about some things, but not definitely not everything. That’s where she comes in: just as his mom did, Yamato needs to protect him.

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In Takeo’s cool dad’s flashback, we see that Yuriko has always been tough and selfless, putting herself in danger to spare others pain, a big part of being a mom. Those qualities made her future husband fall for her right then and there. Yuriko isn’t overestimating her abilities when she keeps a fellow pregnant woman from falling down steps, she’s acting reflexively.

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Yet the rescue ends up hurting Yuriko, and when Takeo has to get her in a cab to go to the hospital, we see the weakness she still sees in her boy: he kinda falls apart. It’s thanks to Suna that things don’t get worse. Takeo may be great at saving strangers, but when it’s his mom, who he’s always seen as an invincible, indomitable force of nature, in trouble, his worry overwhelms him and prevents quick and rational decisions.

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When we see Yamato during these trying times for Takeo, she’s never frowning or outwardly worried, but has her usual cheerful, glowing smile. She goes to Takeo’s and cooks dinner for him. She comforts him with a simple touch of his arm, like a magical girl. She takes care of him, in a preview for how things will be for the formal hand-off (i.e. marriage one day). Yamato may be much twee-er than Takeo’s mom, but she shows she’s just as tough and able to protect Takeo.

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Witnessing these strong women around him inspires Takeo to pull himself together. When his mom gives the wheelchair meant for her to another mother going into labor, Takeo picks his mom up and carries her to the delivery room, surprising her. It’s a gesture that makes her realize he’s not a dumb little kid anymore; he has grown up a little, and he’ll keep growing up into a good man, a good big brother, and if all goes well with Yamato, a good husband and father as well. I’m sure as hell pullin’ for him!

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 07

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Erika and the episode waste no time after Kyoya’s latest apathetic remarks; Erika approaches him cordially with the decision that she’s no longer a Wolf Girl, and he no longer has to pretend to be her boyfriend. Yes: Erika dumps Kyoya. It’s a command performance for both, but as Erika later cries to herself on the way home, it’s clear her love for him isn’t all gone, nor is Kyoya as okay with this development as he seems.

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A bit of residual anguish is to be expected, but the next day Erika is determined to move forward. She basks in Yuu’s kindness and accepts his invitation to hang out at an arcade, under the condition San can come along. The whole time, San notes how hyper and happy she is, almost like she’s forcing things — and she is. But Erika’s attitude is to be expected of someone who has just had a huge weight lifted off her shoulders.

She’s free: free from torture and verbal abuse; free to choose someone anew, who really cares for and will treasure her. Only…she makes clear to San she’s not sure Yuu is that someone. San warns Erika she can’t lead Yuu on too long, otherwise she’s no better than Kyoya. Yuu needs an answer ASAP, even if he’s not forcing her for one.

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At school, Erika and Yuu can’t help but see Kyoya with other girls, but his black prince persona is leaking out of him, as he’s frustrated with his loss of Erika and with those girls so eagerly presenting themselves before him to take it out on. Kyoya seeing Erika with Yuu, whom he dismisses as a ‘wimp’ and a ‘huge step down’, pisses Kyoya off even more.

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Yuu arranges a White Day date with Erika at the aquarium (ZOMG axolotls!), where they proceed have a ton of fun…while Kyoya lays on his couch at home, defeated. Kakeru (who along with his crew looks like a bunch of disguised shinigami from Bleach) spots Erika having fun with another guy and calls Kyoya in a panic, like the good friend that he is, to ask him what his fucking problem is.

Kyoya hangs up on him. It was so easy to mercilessly berate a girl who genuinely cared about him; now that she’s gone, and Kyoya finds that dispite his assertions to the contray, he genuinely cares about her, suddenly he has a far tougher road ahead to fix things. Yet there he lies on the couch. Who is truly the ‘wimp’ here, hmmmm?

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I said last week that Yuu’s syrupy-sweet, unconditional, suffocating niceness would grow old for Erika quick, and not just because she’s used to being mistreated, and it does. Because of that past pain, she desperately wants to fall for Yuu, but it’s just not going to happen as long as Kyoya still draws breath, cad that he is. Not only that, Erika just isn’t the type of person to fall for Yuu. She thrives in the battle, and giving up on Kyoya would mean surrender and retirement.

For that reason, Erika does the right thing and promptly, calmly explains why she can’t return Yuu’s feelings. Yuu may seem a but over-yielding and understanding here, but let’s keep in mind just how delicate and worrying a guy he is. He knew this was a long shot all along, and has no ill will to Erika. If anything, their brief fling was an enlightening experience for him, which will pay dividends in his future dealings with both people and girls.

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It’s worth noting that the popular fountain that’s said to increase a couple’s love doesn’t actually activate or light up until Kyoya happens to show up, with as close a tail between his legs as he can muster, which translates to him possessively grabbing Erika by the arm and dragging her away from Yuu, even though there’s no call for that beyond saving face. Yuu warns him that this time he’d better ‘treasure her properly’, something Kyoya doesn’t respond to, but perhaps understands now.

When Erika demands to explain his actions, he silences her with their first kiss, saying “No more ‘Whys’.” But a kiss isn’t going to cut it for Erika, who’s been through enough with him to deserve a straight answer. Again, it’s only as straight as Kyoya dares, which means it’s still pretty damn roundabout:

I already said you belong to me…it means you aren’t just a way to kill the time…in general society, they’d usually call it love, right?

Yikes. Still, it’s genuine. Satisfied that he was close enough for her to claim victory this time, Erika kisses him back, then agrees to let him be her real boyfriend. He takes exception to who is letting whom do what, but the long and short of it is, these two have worked things out. I couldn’t be happier.

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Hanayamata – 02

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As Hana continues to immerse Naru face-first into the dazzling world of yosakoi, she is also spending an awful lot of time with her, which irks Yaya. We met Yaya last week as the smart, talented beauty whom Naru looks up to and who ultimately is the source of Naru’s desire to better herself. But this week we see a new side of her: the jealous, tsundere side.

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Yaya and Naru go way back, and became friends because they walked the same way home from school. While on those many walks, Yaya would always brag or whine, and Naru would always listen, take her side, and back her up enthusiastically. Naru says again and again that she wants nothing more than for Yaya to approve of her decision to get into yosakoi, but at first, Yaya can’t; because it exposes something in her.

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That is that for all her popularity and skills and looks, she’s miserable if Naru isn’t around to take her side or if Naru isn’t around for her to protect. The two may be very different people, but they’re alike in the only way that matters for them to be friends: they’ve both come to depend on one another. Yaya knew all along that Naru wanted to improve herself, but couldn’t approve at first because she feared losing the special bond they’d both become accustomed to.

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Yaya’s desire to hold on to the comforting status quo mirror’s Naru’s hesitation to join Hana, whom Naru (and we) learn isn’t as strong or fearless as she thought, but still finds the courage to do what she does. It took Yaya’s outburst at Naru for her to realize that a true friend doesn’t pretend her friend doesn’t want to change, simply because it might inconvenience her. Instead, she vows to support her, and they make up.

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I really like what this episode did with Yaya, taking her of the pedestal she was atop last week and painting her friendship with Naru as much more reciprocal. We also see Naru dancing yosakoi for the first time, then in front of her audience (of one; Yaya), showcasing the animators’ deftness with body motions. Her performance is rough, but there are glimmers of greatness, harking back to when she swings the naruko Hana gives her for the first time and it makes a crisp, clear clack…the clack of destiny.

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