Super Cub – 09 – Winter Is Coming

An autumnal cold snap suddenly makes real what had merely been abstract: Koguma and Reiko aren’t quite ready for the full-on chill of Winter. Little things like Reiko warming her feet on her Hunter Cub’s motor offer temporary relief, but more stringent measures will soon be needed.

Despite the cold, Shii braves the outside to ask if she can eat lunch with Koguma and Reiko. These two are so tight-knit now it won’t be easy to penetrate their circle of two, especially without a Cub of her own, but Shii does have one thing at her command: copious amounts of delicious hot drinks.

Her hot Italian milk tea with a touch of grappa is so good, Reiko jokingly contemplates stuffing the tiny Shii in her cargo box so she can always have a hot drink when she needs one. And speaking of knit, when she hears of Koguma’s money problems, she offers her an oversized cardigan made of durable, minimally processed abrasive wool.

While it is indeed warm, it’s also big enough to sleep in, but Koguma hatches a new plan, Reiko removes her cargo box, and Shii rides double with her way too fast for her comfort as they race back to school before the gate closes. There, the home ec teacher regards the rare material with awe, and is more than happy to convert the huge cardigan into a jacket liner and stockings for Reiko. There’s even enough for a Thermos cozy for Shii!

The first time Koguma rides with the new woolly lining, she beams with joy and the episode’s color bumps up. Reiko is also happy that she can be warm and fashionable with her stockings. With the more saturated color comes another patented Super Cub wordless sequence, accompanied by an austere, minimalist piano and trumpet piece.

Unfortunately, the woolly upgrades only last so long, as soon both Koguma and Reiko are uncomfortably cold on their steeds. Even so, Reiko is adamant about not procuring a windshield, which she dismisses as deeply uncool.

In another example of how Shii hasn’t quite clawed her way into their circle of two, they leave her in the dust with nary a word to her when they ride off to the store. Poor Shii! Still, I’m sure in time she’ll be as close to the other two as they are to each other; this stuff doesn’t happen overnight.

Koguma is staring at the 4000-yen price tag of a Super Cub windshield when a clerk removes it from the display and sells it; turns out it’s the last one. An affiliate has both Super and Hunter shields in stock, but the girls shake their heads: Koguma can’t bear the cost, while Reiko can’t bear the lameness.

Even so, they visit the resident Cub collector from whom Koguma procured her cargo box, and each of them tries out an old battered Cub with a windshield…and they’re both sold!

They order their shields, and then work together mounting them to their bikes without anyone else’s help. Once they’re done, they hop on, the color bumps up again, and they just keep riding, thanks both to the protection of their windshields and their high spirits.

As Reiko admits while drinking more of Shii’s coffee (honestly I worry about the girls’ caffeine intake now that they’ve met Shii): “If it works better, it’s not ugly.” She initially pooh-poohed windshields, but that was before she experienced just how much of a difference they make. They don’t just make winter riding bearable, they make it fun.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Super Cub – 08 – United Nations

The bike wives have become so close they’re now casually drinking out of one another’s Thermoses. Fall is transitioning into winter, which is no joke for riders. Kitting out their rides to battle the coming cold (Koguma’s first, by the way) means having to spend a lot of coin, which means vending machine coffee is a luxury best avoided.

It’s karmic providence, then, when Shii invites the girls to her family’s café, which looks like an inn straight out of Tyrol (in Austria), but has the French name Buerre, while inside resembles both a german bakery, a British sandwich shop, and an nifty fifties American diner. It’s about as all over the place as Koguma isn’t, but it has its charm.

More to the point, the coffee is free due to their herosim during the cultural festival, and it is also excellent, whether it’s Shii’s or that of her father, who quit the corporate rat race in Tokyo to pursue his scattershot passion. The coffee is so good, the color in Koguma’s world gets jacked up to eleven!

When not mainlining caffeine at Shii’s place, Koguma and Reiko hit up a job lot store for discount winter outfitting. Reiko is quickly distracted by rare firearms, drawing Koguma’s subtle ire, but then Koguma falls in love with a particularly nifty bento box that reminded me of Rin’s little portable camp grill—and may well be similarly much sought-after on the internet marketplace!

It may not be a purchase that helps winter-proof her Cub, but it’s a sign that Koguma will spoil herself on occasion, and has also begun to cook better lunches than the glorified microwavable salt pouches she choked down at the start of the series. She also manages to procure some handlebar covers within her budget, and is immediately glad she did so, as they keep the cold wind off her hands and out of her jacket sleeves.

While Reiko initially pooh-poohs the mod as too “old fogey”, one ride on Koguma’s Cub and she’s totally sold, hopping on the ‘net to buy the exact same pair of covers. They return to Shii’s family’s café and meet her Americanophile mom, whose yellow pickup truck and 50s outfit explain the diner half of the business. While her mom is Mrs. America and her dad is Herr Deutschland, Shii is a “tiny sliver of Italy”—tiny, but tenacious!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Super Cub – 07 – La Vita in Moto

Koguma has owned her Cub for half a year, while Reiko bought a new Hunter Cub. Not only do they carry themselves like the motorbiking equivalent of old salts, they  come off as old, close friends. They hang out a lot more, their earlier clipped greetings replaced by more consistent banter. Koguma even messes with Reiko, fining her for saying it’s cold, then accepting a ginkgo leaf plucked from her hair.

Everyone is saying its cold because autumn has arrived, and with it the school’s cultural festival. Koguma and Reiko’s tiny classmate Shii leads the executive committee, who have decided on an Italian-style coffee bar. Reiko knows Shii since her family runs a bakery she frequents, but when Shii asks for after school volunteers, Koguma puts Reiko’s dire need for new riding gloves first.

Why Reiko’s wealthy parents would let her go around with holes in her gloves, I can hazard a guess: they don’t know what shes up to and are too busy with their own stuff to ask. I love how Koguma keeps their shopping trip focused by taking Reiko by the arm; it’s so nice to see her being so assertive!

Koguma’s dry but fertile sense of humor continues when the two head to Reiko’s cabin to hang out, as Koguma has little patience for Reiko’s waxing poetic about non-slip work gloves. The next day, quite by accident, Koguma and Reiko end up drawn into Shii’s café plan.

When the teacher flakes out on transporting the equipment they need from the Kofu school, and Koguma overhears the committee pooh-pooh a motorbike’s cargo-carrying abilities, she steps in and volunteers to assist: partly to uphold her Cub Pride, but also because she and Reiko have the means to help.

Those means include a trailer from the gym and a frankly ingenious damped rig for carrying delicate cargo (including soba in breakable bowls!) The bike wives don their jackets in the autumn chill and get to wrenching on each others’ rides, until they have themselves a pair of pack Cubs.

When Shii comes out to see them off, Koguma and Reiko give her some percolators and tell her where she can find everything else she needs for an “classic American saloon”-themed café, in case they fail to get the equipment back in one piece. Showing her true biker-girl colors, she says you should always have a backup plan.

The resulting ride is all too familiar to Koguma, who rode to and from Kofu dozens of times for her summer job. Her teacher friend greets her with a handshake, and when she sees the girls’ bikes, she’s impressed and even inspired to procure a relative’s used Cub. When Koguma says she should get a new one and Reiko adds that old ones are “nothing but trouble”, the teacher says she “wouldn’t mind that kind of trouble.”

Thanks to Koguma and Reiko’s motorized heroics, Shii and the class’s Italian cafe is a resounding success. More importantly, a great weight of anxiety has been lifted from Shii’s slight shoulders as she pulls off her plan with aplomb. As she switches on the espresso machine and it starts to make those satisfying brewing sounds, she unleashes a beautiful smile very similar to those Koguma flashes when things go her way.

Koguma and Reiko are ready to make an Irish exit when Shii comes out and offers them some Italian coffees, a humble token of her gratitude for everything they did for her. The biker wives chortle together and gladly accept the warm drinks. Then Shii compliments their bikes as “terrific”—an adjective Koguma had never thought to assign to them.

Shii says she wants to right one someday, but is afraid she’d fall off like she often does on her regular bike. Koguma tells her Cubs are made so that “you have to want to ride them, or they won’t let you,” saying a spooked rider will spook the Cub. I don’t doubt her, as she’s logged a good many kilometers.

Still, I hope that Shii, this “delicate young lady” of whom Koguma once had a “washed-out light blue” impression, but now sees in her the bright sunny azure of a summer sky, comes to befriend our Cub Girls…She couldn’t ask for cooler people to befriend, and maybe she’ll muster the courage to join the club!

Super Cub – 06 – Forbidden Joyride

Koguma has been busy since we last saw her: she has her motorcycle license and Shino bored out her Cub into a 52cc Type II Motorbike, meaning she’s no longer limited to 30 kph. It may not be a fire-breaking chopper, but every little improvement to her Cub makes Koguma feeling a little more liberated.

It looks like she’ll be riding the bus with the rest of her class on their trip to Kamakura, though since Reiko will be with her, it’s not all bad. Reiko wants to see the Shonan Bullet Road, but absent motorbikes to ride on that, Koguma would rather splurge on some tasty local cuisine. And she’s super excited about that food—a far cry from the plain konbini-bought microwavable meals she usually sticks to.

So it’s heartbreaking when she wakes up with a low fever and has to stay home. But then, a few hours later, her fever breaks. When she kicks a rock in frustration, it skips right over to her Cub and bounces off the exhaust, and it’s as if the universe is telling Koguma what she must do.

Donning her gym jacket (it’s a uniform!) and calling Reiko to announce her plans, Koguma plots a course and hits to Kamakura on her Cub. Reiko warns her to be careful and turn back if she runs into any problems, but promises to have her back when she arrives.

Like most times when Rin rode herself to campsites, it was a blessing in disguise that Koguma’s temporary fever kept her off that bus. Her solitary ride gives her more time with her Cub in a new place, and tests her endurance and navigating skills.

The scenery is also awesome, especially when she looks out into the sky from Fuji-san’s fifth station or riding the Shonan Bullet Road beside Sagami Bay. Koguma built some detours into her trip so she wouldn’t arrive at the hotel to early, so it’s adorable when she pulls in just seconds before the class bus to a relieved and elated Reiko.

As promised, Reiko stands right beside Koguma as she gets a talking-to from the faculty, but it’s not like they can turn her away, so instead they bar her from riding her motorbike for the remainder of the class trip. They believe she’s really sorry, but the looks she and Reiko exchange indicate otherwise!

She and Reiko hit the baths, and she tells Reiko how far up Fuji-san she went, and how she stole a march on Reiko by riding the Bullet Road before her. After a soak Koguma revels in the sumptuous evening feast, and before the two fall asleep in their adjacent futons, they form a plan of action for tomorrow’s designated free time.

That plan involves locating her Cub, retracting its rear footrests, and sneaking off to ride double or “two-up” on the Bullet Road. Reiko even brought a light helmet along for emergencies, and is wearing just the brightest, most infectious smile as she holds Koguma tight from behind.

It’s not just about the ride itself that’s so invigorating, but the fact that they’re breakin’ the rules. The teachers can’t clip these lovely bike wives’ wings—they’re gonna fly! While resting at a station, Reiko admits that she kinda broke her Cub during her summer adventure on Fuji-san, so she’ll need to procure a new one. Fortunately, she has a lead on some rare, out-of-production, and very sought-after Hunter Cubs.

As for Koguma’s Super Cub, Reiko says she’ll probably be able to keep riding it the rest of her life, and that prospect really heightens Koguma’s world. When the two hop back on and continue their forbidden joyride, positively  bathing in lush, vivid greens and blues of their fast-moving surroundings, Koguma declares “I’m not going to change. I don’t want to change. I’m going to keep riding forever…Together with my Super Cub.”

Super Cub – 05 – The Ascent

Kudos to Koguma, who over the summer she expanded her horizons, learned an abject lesson in preparing for the elements, saved up some cash ferrying documents between her school and Kofu. That’s a summer anyone can be proud of. She comes to Reiko ready to make some tasty okonomiyaki in exchange to hear what she did this summer…and why her Postal Cub looks like it’s been mauled by Oniguma-sama.

Reiko also expanded her horizons, learned a hard lesson or two, and presumably also made some money with her job doing manual labor “somewhere close…yet far away.”

It’s just…she went about it a little differently…

I see you, Super Cub.

Back in the day, anyone could ride up Fuji-san, but new laws and environmental restrictions narrowed the opportunities considerably. Reiko’s job with an official team that maintains and resupplies the trail and outposts going up the mountain was the opportunity to do something she’d wanted to do ever since she got her license: Ride to the top of Fuji-san.

She researched modifying Cubs for off-roading and secured the job, which consisted of a lot of manual labor but also riding ahead to ensure the way is clean for the giant resupply Caterpillar that climbs up and down the mountain. Reiko’s arduous ascent is often appropriately accompanied by heavy metal soundtrack, and also full of vicious crashes and tumbles.

Still, every time she falls, she dusts herself off and gets back up, because there’s still a mountain to be climbed. When her boss, who climbed Everest, asks her why she’s so intent on climbing the mountain on a glorified moped originally designed to deliver mail, she says it’s to find out if she’s the kind of person who can overcome something like that.

Instead of mail, Reiko intends her Cub to deliver her to a better sense of who she is and what she’s capable of. It’s an incredibly moving, well-realized, self-contained epic little movie of an episode, and what’s all the more impressive is that it doesn’t exist to outdo or overshadow Koguma’s own summer achievements, but simply to present the vast spectrum of experiences.

Oh, and it surprised me almost every time Reiko hit a rock or peeled out, and I found myself actually crying out in anguish whenever it happened, hoping Reiko would be able to get up and start her Cub back up. Fortunately, she always is, and always does. One day when it’s clear she’s really struggling, her boss tells her not to try to “stand up” against the mountain, but to “come alongside”.

Also lending a sense of grandeur is the absolutely spellbinding scenery that grows more strange and otherworldly and beautiful as Reiko reaches higher and higher elevations. There is nothing quite like the way the earth sprawls out before you when you’re on a mountain, and that unique feeling is captured perfectly.

Reiko takes her boss’ advice as a reminder that she should be having fun, not suffering, but when push comes to shove, she’s not going to “go limp” let the mountain push her around. She holds herself and her Cub down and fights as hard as she can. Alas, her final crash is her worst, and cracks her stalwart Cub’s enging casing.

She calls her boss, who picks her up in the Cat. He remarks that she didn’t make it to the top: she’s only a few switchbacks from it; perhaps a few hundred feet. But that’s okay; Reiko can’t look out at creation unfolding beneath her and feel bad about what she accomplished.

Koguma maybe gets the line of the episode in response to this epic tale of man vs. nature: “That’s silly.” As in, climbing Mt. Fuji on your motorbike is silly. Maybe it is, but Reiko still had to do it, and doesn’t regret it. They change the subject to Koguma’s “Cursed Cub”, and Reiko eases her friend’s mind by assuring her none of the three previous owners died because of it. Two of them didn’t even die.

Koguma takes Reiko up on the offer to sleep over, if nothing else to experience the pitch-black darkness far from the city lights. Ensconsced in the mummy sleeping bag Reiko provided (and looking more like Shima Rin than ever!) she clarifies her statement about the silliness of climbing Mt. Fuji as not meaning that it could not be done. Hell, Reiko came really really close to doing it, and probably could have if she’d just slowed down a bit!

And as we’re treated most gorgeous images of Fuji-san yet, Reiko says the first Cub rider climbed the mountain in August of 1963, followed that same year by a team of Cub riders. Reiko isn’t done; she’s going to be the next one to do it—and the first high-school girl!

That morning, over coffee, Koguma makes clear she’s not done expanding her horizons either. She took the summer job in part to pay for driving school so she could get her full motorcycle license. Reiko hops on the laptop to book Koguma’s reservations, and also to look for cheap ways to increase the power of her Cub so her friend can climb her own mountain a little higher.

This whole episode certainly took Super Cub to new heights, but even if and when it comes back down to earth, Reiko and Koguma will unassailably remain my two heroes.

Super Cub – 04 – Summer Courier

Some of my favorite moments of Yuru Camp involved Shima Rin on her own, setting things up, figuring things out, or on the road in harsh weather with the knowledge a soothing hot spring wasn’t far away. I could watch her do stuff alone without saying anything all day, just like I could watch Super Cub’s Koguma do the same.

Super Cub, I’ve been remiss in mentioning, distinguishes itself in the musical department by employing a lot of soaring classical piano pieces that really match the moods of the montages with which they’re paired as well as lend a sense of added majesty. Plus, it just makes the show that much more classy.

Anywho, this week is full of Koguma taking care of business as she takes on a challenging summer job as a document courier between her school and a high school in Kofu (also a Yuru Camp locale). Pre-job preparations include buying some sturdy new boots, a dependable Casio watch, and getting a 100-km oil change at Shino’s.

Her first trip to Kofu High is full of suspense; she really doesn’t want to screw up, and even declines the Kofu teacher’s invitation to stop and have some tea just so she can remain ahead of schedule.

Just as she got comfortable with operating her Cub and interacting with Reiko (who is spending her summer touring “somewhere close yet far away”), Koguma gets used to the daily trips back and forth. Eventually loosens up and derives more joy from the new routine.

Before she knows it, she’s put 500km on her Cub, and so takes it back to Shino. He tells her she might be riding her Cub a bit too gentlyleading her to give it the beans at her next green light.

One day Koguma is caught in a summer shower, and arrives at Kofu High looking like a half-drowned cat. The teacher makes sure she’s dried off and has her wait out the rain with a cup of tea.

Not wanting to endure another soaking, Koguma heads to the store to buy a waterproof rainsuit. It costs nearly as much as three round trips, but the next time it rains it pays for itself, as Koguma can ride dry and comfortably, looking up at the sky and saying “take that” upon arriving at Kofu High.

The days and weeks go by, and soon Koguma has reached 1000km. She takes Shino’s advice and gives changing the oil a try. While at first she can’t loosen the bolt that releases the spent oil, she watches a bicyclist ride by and it gives her the idea to use her foot to move the wrench, which does the trick.

In addition to yet again gaining inspiration from observing life around her (as with the goggles), the colors of the episode become more lush and vivid, matching the dopamine high that comes from having cleared what is the toughest hurdle in changing oil—getting that damn bolt off without making a mess or hurting yourself.

The rest of the change goes smoothly, and while Koguma probably should have worn gloves, there’s something to be said for getting a little oil under your fingernails after your very first wrenching job. Go Koguma!

After a month and a half of round trips at ¥2,000 a pop minus fuel and expenses, Koguma has a nice chunk of change squirreled away, with which she can use to further expand the world she’s started to grow with this job, both as a matter of geographic distance, and overcoming her shy, reserved nature.

Even betterm she’s rewarded for a summer job well done by a call from Reiko, who returned home the same day Koguma’s job concluded and invites Koguma over to her place. After a beat, Koguma asks Reiko where to go, and pulls up in front of an absolutely gorgeous log cabin in the forest at dusk. Reiko invites Koguma inside so they can talk about their summer adventures. It’s a cozy, warm, and above all triumphant way to end the episode.

Super Cub – 03 – Calling Out to the Universe

Koguma notes how it’s been a few days since her “life of emptiness” was suddenly filled by her Cub, and then by a fellow Cub rider. She acquired the Cub by actively visiting a dealership, while befriending Reiko happened more by chance when Reiko approached her. Koguma is gradually getting more comfortable with both of these things.

During lunch (the running gag of Koguma never being able to microwave her meals is great and very relatable) Reiko announces her intention to go touring during summer vacation, and is glad to have the big luggage box that comes with the Postal Cub. Koguma would like one too, so Reiko reaches out to a fellow Cubber and finds another box within walking distance.

Reiko has Koguma remove the box from the worn-out Cub, and using tools on a Cub for the first time must feel satisfying. That feeling is repeated when a teacher gives her a free front basket from his Cub he doesn’t need anymore. As she vicariously revels in Koguma grinning like a goofball, Reiko tells Koguma that whenever she needs a part of something, the universe will provide if you “call out” to it.

As Koguma tries opening up the pipes on her Cub, she learns she’ll have to call out for something else: a means of blocking the wind from hitting her face. I must say these three episodes have been an absolute face clinic, and Koguma’s wind-in-her-face face is as priceless as her satisfied grins. It’s great watching Koguma discover the simple but powerful joy of upgrades.

That night, Koguma considers how to solve this problem as she cooks a dinner of fried rice—not a microwave packet—perhaps indicating she’s taking more pride in the process and effort of all things, not just her Cub. Reiko takes Koguma to the library to search the web for a face shield, but even the cheapest are around $40.

Then, as if the universe were answering Koguma’s call for an alternative, she spots a custodian wearing safety goggles, which are both cheaper than a mask and tough enough to withstand the rigors of riding. Koguma had to go to the hardware store to buy a chain lock anyway, so kills two birds with one stone. Goofy grinning ensues, and that night Koguma dreams of riding her Cub on a road through a flower-strewn meadow. She’s officially got the Cub Bug.

Koguma’s mood extends into the morning, and Reiko notices her friend’s extra pep. After school, both of them want to go riding, so they do, although I was a little confused when Reiko left first, because I thought they intended to ride together. Another time, perhaps. In the meantime, Reiko gives Koguma her cell number, tells her to call if she needs anything, and to be careful on the road.

Koguma admits that getting her licesne wasn’t a particularly emotional moment, but getting Reiko’s number was another thing entirely. She isn’t sure yet if she and Reiko could be classified as friends, but that doesn’t matter, because they’re something she considers deeper and more profound: they’re both members of that ancient and noble tribe of Honda Cub owners, and they are legion!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Koi wa Ameagari no You ni – 12 (Fin) – Never Gonna Give Up, Never Gonna Let Down

For the record, I was never against Akira running again, I just wanted it to be because she wanted to do it, not because Haruka or anyone else compelled her to. In any hard endeavor, if your heart isn’t in something, quality suffers, and its evident for all.

What I learned from this finale is that both Akira and Masami got nudges of varying kinds from their respective best friends. One of them, Haruka, may have pushed a little to far in her zealousness, but to her credit, is aware of that, and how it may well be selfish of her to put Akira on the spot.

At the same time, Haruka is being true to what she wants, even if it’s selfish or may not work out; even if Akira never speaks to her again, she had to make her stand, in case there was just the slightest glimmer of an ember of passion remaining in post-op Akira’s heart.

Despite the differing levels of intensity, both “friend nudges” ultimately succeed, because there were indeed embers in the hearts of both Akira and Masami, which only needed a little bit of oxygen to reignite. Perhaps due to how receptive he was to Chihiro’s advice, Masami is back to belting out pages through the night, nearly causing a dozen cigarette fires.

It’s at this point that we return to the budding romance of Nishida and Yoshizawa, never an unwelcome prospect owing to their infectious chemistry and general adorability. Both are unsure of their futures, but while Yoshizawa is simply going to college and will figure out what to do later, Nishida has decided to start on the path of hair-styling.

Yoshizawa was the one that nudged her in that direction, fortifying her courage with his confidence in her ability and satisfaction with the work she’s done and, if she’ll have him, will continue to do into the future. Bawwww.

Meanwhile, Haruka continues to wait for Akira, spotting two middle schoolers sharing a scarf while scouting the high school and remembering when she and Akira did the same exact thing, because it was a school that, according to its name, can “see the wind,” something they wanted to do together.

While Kondo is away at the Head Office again, sparking rumors that he’s soon to be promoted, his son Yuuto suddenly asks Akira if she’s fast, and whether she’ll teach him. Akira just as suddenly agrees, and does a really good job!

When Yuuto falls, he asks if he wants a break, but he refuses, not wanting to give up; wanting to reach the finish line even if he’s last, or else it will feel like he never ran. Just when it sounds like a “from the mouths of babes” moment, Yuuto makes it clear it was his dad that said this stuff to him, adding that he wasn’t going to give up either.

When she catches Kondo in the office, he thanks her for teaching his son, and she tells him what Yuuto told her. Akira can tell he’s gotten back into writing novels, and he tells her he’s essentially added a promise to a promise one from which he’s both suffered and learned, wondering out loud if she has a similar promise she’s forgotten.

That night, she remembers. Unpleasant and overdone as it was, Haruka’s confrontation nevertheless helped unsheath a still-warm ember in her heart. Kondo’s inspiring words and those of his son then reignited it.

Kondo finally announces why he’s been at the head office so much: it’s not that he’s getting promoted, but he has to master a new menu…which he hasn’t been able to do. His coworkers assume it’s another episode of their pitiable bed-headed manager bumbling about again…but nobody knows that he hasn’t kept up with the new menu because he’s so absorbed in writing. Nobody, that is, except Akira.

When he even leaves the menu book behind, Akira decides to tracks him down to return it. She remembers that after the fall that tore her Achilles, Haruka urged her to get back up, and she did, limping across the finish line. She didn’t give up.

Kondou encounter her in a light jog, and after what happened the last time she chased someone down, Kondou is worried. But Akira is perfectly fine, telling him “It’ll stop raining soon.”

Kondou is about to say something but is interrupted by a phone call—no doubt the head office tearing him a new one. But as Tachibana quietly walks away, the rain stops, the clouds part, and a lusciously gorgeous deep blue sky opens up, reflected in the pools of fallen rain.

He calls out her name once more, and she comes running, practically throwing herself into his arms. And she’s fine, no re-aggravation. They resolve to fulfill their own promises—his writing, her running—they’ll let each other know right away, whenever that may be. Akira then texts Haruka, indicating her desire for them to “see the wind” together again.

It’s a lovely end to a lovely show to put a very necessary pause on their romance. Rekindling fires is one thing, keeping them going long and strong is another. It takes time, dedication, effort, and care. As such, I imagine by the time Akira makes some good progress fulfilling her promise, she’ll be sufficiently old to remove the elephant from the room of their relationship.

However things go, it’s good to see Akira and Kondou end up in such a good place. They both know what they have to do, but more importantly, they know what they want to do, and are going to give it their all—come what may.

3-gatsu no Lion – 20

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After losing the first three matches, and on the eve of the fourth which will determine whether he’ll get to play in his hometown, Shimada has a dream about a seemingly ideal life.

His girlfriend never left him, he gave up on being a pro, and he lived happily in his hometown with a big extended family. Yet even in the dream, there is shogi. As lovely as it looks, it might be a nightmare to him, because he gave up.

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At one point in the final match, Shimada actually seems to be glad to have a “black bog” churning in the pit of his stomach, because he feels alive. The pain keeps him focused from all the people talking no-so-behind his back about how he won’t win a single game.

Rei has to hear the same negativity while on stage with another A-ranker who leaves before the match is even over once he’s satisfied Souya has him where he wants him. The grizzled veteran makes Rei amazed stomach pains are all Shimada has suffered, and how frightening and impossible the prospect of surviving in rank A seems, at least at this point in his career.

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Shimada’s ideal dream/nightmare, it would seem, was a consoltion for the fact he wouldn’t make it to his hometown, because there would be no fifth match. Souta simply silently covers him in layer after layer of snow until he’s well and truly buried.

By the time Rei rushes to the monitors, hoping to will him into the move that could save the match, Shimada has already conceded. Like Rei in his match with Shimada, there was a gap that was simply too wide to be crossed.

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Watching his mentor’s defeat, and everything that surrounded it, is a vital learning experience for Rei. Already convinced he will not attain the heights of previous middle school pros, and always dubious of his own worth in general, Rei sought a reversal of all the pessimism around him, perhaps to also convince himself to have faith things could turn around.

But instead he learns that beyond the storm is just another, more severe storm, and Shimada has weathered those storms, and feels better for doing so. Rei will also have to learn not to wither before seemingly insurmountable odds, nor fear defeat, because win or lose, something is learned, and life is enriched.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 19

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We step away from the Kawamoto sisters this week, but we see their warm caring nature reflected in Rei as he takes care of Shimada. Flashbacks indicate he’s had often-crippling stomach pains since he was a teenager, likely due in part to the pressure his small but well-meaning village put on him to become a master. He doesn’t want to let them down any more than himself.

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The Lion King Tournament with Souya is really doing a number on his already shaky health, so Rei comes by to make him a delicious udon bowl, stating his father (not Kouda-san) had the same stomach problems. Rei doesn’t cook for himself at home, but he’s happy to do it here, and is actually good at it. I can just imagine Hina’s joy (as well as Akari and Momo’s, but particularly Hina’s) if he whipped up a bowl for her!

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Rei goes against his better judgement and acquiesces to Shimada’s demand to play shogi with him, despite the fact what the dude needs most is sleep. But Rei is flattered to hear the reason why: like Souya, Rei is an all-rounder with similar “viewpoints” on the game Shimada can’t get elsewhere. Rei may be a stopgap (i.e. nowhere near as good) but he’s better than nothing. Souya even used the same word to describe the 3-g silver (or whatever) move: “disturbing.”

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From his house, Rei gets Shimada on the shinkansen, into his hotel room, and thanks to an altruistic assist from Souya, Shimada’s role in the pre-match reception is mercifully brief. The day of the match, Rei still second-guesses staying and playing with Shimada instead of insisting he rest back home, but there’s nothing he can do about it now. All he can do is hope Shimada has enough left in the tank to grab a win.

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No. 6 6

I like how Safu is walking around a cold, windless No. 6 with a look of contempt on her place. If it weren’t for her grandmother dying, Safu would never have returned to No. 6, and learned that Shion’s no longer there, but out in the West Block. When she learns this, she immediately declares her undying love for him and vows to track him down. But the security bureau have other ideas, and promptly detain her after she leaves Shion’s mom’s bakery.

I can safely say Safu is my favorite character in this series, and so it’s good to see more of her. The black-and-white-haired lovebirds have just gotten boring. They repeat the same arguments over and over; Nezumi is a totally static dickweed, and Shion is as plain and dull as his hair color, going on about developing a serum and breaking down the wall. It would be nice to see exciting stuff like that, but instead we get more odd couple bickering.

Great things have been done in eleven episodes before. AnoHana most recently. FLCL was only six episodes; Blue Submarine No. 6 only four. All of them did an infinitely better job telling a story in a limited time than this. The main characters are totally unlikable and they’re either too waffling or too weak to do anything. The only person who tries to take action – Safu – is immediately arrested. And when Nezumi gets word of this, does he tell Shion? ‘Course not. Give me a break, No. 6!


Rating: 2.5