Citrus – 09

It’s a given that Matsuri would lose the Battle of Yuzu, and that she’d lose for one simple reason: it’s not a battle, or at least it’s not supposed to be. Life isn’t a video game and it isn’t zero-sum.

While that can be unsatisfying and frustrating for someone so seemingly adept at “playing the game”, it reveals that Matsuri’s “game” is actually very limited, specialized, even stunted, and that there’s a lot more for her to learn, much like Mei and Yuzu.

For now, however, Mei simply concedes the first round, with a longer game plan that’s a lot clearer than I thought, but with no guarantee of success. Matsuri tells her to buzz off or she’ll leak the photo of them kissing, and just to twist the knife, orders Mei to go on a date with one of Matsuri’s old creepy “texting buddies.”

Mei knows how much Yuzu is looking forward to the Christmas party—she can hear Yuzu gushing to Mama from the hallway, but Mei tells her she must decline…”extra council work that can’t wait.” When Yuzu tries to persuade her to reconsider, Mei tells Yuzu to be with Matsuri, stating “that girl needs you.”

The next day after school, Mama Harumin almost inadvertently gets Yuzu to discovr Mei isn’t working with the school council when she suggests Yuzu help out with the council if she wants to party with Mei later. Unfortunately, Matsuri intercepts Yuzu on the way to the office, and insists they go on their date together. Heeding Mei’s words last night and goes along.

So, round two goes to Matsuri as well, and that’s a win, right? I mean, she’s on a date with Yuzu and Yuzu alone, while Mei is sleeping with some creep! Well, it’s not that simple. When Matsuri expresses her distaste for the frequency with with Yuzu talks about Mei, she loses her cool and reveals the her plan, trying in vain to convince Yuzu that Mei is a slutty little liar.

In hindsight, Matsuri should probably be ashamed of herself for thinking Yuzu would react by shunning Mei and running into her open arms. Then again, at this point in her emotional development, winning, and beating Mei, and anyone else between her and Yuzu, is more important than how Yuzu feels.

Round Three is ALL MEI. Yuzu may not have seen what Matsuri was doing before, but she’s sure woke to it now, and excoriates Matsuri for trying to hurt Mei, the person who “looked at her the most”, even urging her to pay more attention to Matsuri.

“Relationships aren’t games,” Yuzu yells in the full restaurant, not giving AF who hears. “Don’t sum them up with cheap words like winning and losing!” Dayum Yuzu, coming through in the clutch.

Turns out Mei didn’t have to sleep with anyone; and Yuzu manages to find her at the meeting point. She runs to Mei and hugs her, in tears over what Mei went through, or more precisely, what she let Matsuri put her through.

The three share the train ride back. Matsuri is still thinking in terms of winning and losing, (and let’s be honest, Mei DID win here) but at least tries to correct herself from that kind of talk.

The reason Mei won is that she and Matsuri are so similar, seeking love everywhere while hating those around them, closing their hearts, and refusing to accept anything. It left Mei empty, as empty as Matsuri must have been feeling.

But she didn’t count on a “meddlesome person” like Yuzu entering her life and giving her unconditional love even when she didn’t ask for it, filling a bit of that emptiness.

Matsuri is rightly impressed by Mei’s recklessness, but Mei trusted Yuzu enough to believe that as soon as she got wise to Matsuri’s games, she’d come running to her side, and that’s just what happened. Matsuri leaves the two, but before she does, whispers in Yuzu’s ear that Mei really likes her, before loudly, jokingly suggesting a threesome in the future. Frankly, Matsuri got off pretty easy here.

That night, Mei insists on having a slice of the cake Yuzu worked so hard to make for Christmas. Yuzu calls her stubborn, but Mei replies that’s who I am. Just as Matsuri had to learn that relationships aren’t only about winning and losing, Mei has to learn to be more open and honest to Yuzu.

And the truth is this: Yuzu makes her heart race, just like Mei makes hers. But there’s things inside Mei that will please her, and things that will terrify her. Bottom line, if she’s still adamant about some kind of romance, Mei is game, but Yuzu will have to take and accept all of her, including the warts, and be content that she isn’t going to change, any more than Yuzu should.

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Dagashi Kashi – 06

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I kinda needed a week away from Dagashi Kashi, so last week’s hiatus was well-timed, allowing me to build back up a hankering for some fresh candy-cation. This week’s loose theme was “playing with your food”; specifically candies that you’re meant to play with before you consume them.

Hotaru brings the others to a shrine where she does a dance to the god of candy with a super-long gummi string, then breaking out a “Maken gummie” which comes in the form of a hand making one of the three rock-paper-scissors gestures. Tou learns another use for it is flipping a girl’s skirt, enabling Kokonotsu an unsolicited look under Saya’s, much to both their embarrasment. Saya promptly posterizes her brother.

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Hotaru tries to use the gummie string in a surprise competition that will determine if Koko inherits his dad’s store, but it fails, like most of her attempts to get him to commit to doing so. However, Koko inadvertently proves he was born to own a candy shop when she accidentally loses her grip on her gummie “nunchaku”, and without thinking he leaps into the air to catch the errant candy in hismouth before it touches the ground.

When Hotaru breaks out the ohajiki, Saya is naturally good at it without knowing the rules. Hotaru has noticed Saya is good at a lot of things she sucks at, and starts to think Saya would be a perfect fit working at Koko’s candy shop. She suggests as much to Saya, unaware of how much Saya likes Koko, and while Saya doesn’t give an answer, the thought of being that little bit closer to Koko lingers in her mind.

That takes us to the episode’s strongest and most heartwarming segment, a flashback to when Saya and Koko were still in elementary school, and she’d come by all the time to play.

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Back then, Koko was as enthusiastic about candy as Hotaru is in the present, and acts as a spokesman for combination candy and “nutritional good” Yoguret, a melt-in-your-mouth dairy candy that comes in blister packs like medicine, making it perfect for if, say, they were to play Doctor.

That was only an example, but Saya, who liked Koko as much back then as she does in the present, runs with it. But Koko makes her the doctor, and when she insists they switch, he always manages to get out of “examining” (read: touching) her by prescribing her the Yogurets as medicine. While comforting him when they’re all gone, the two stumble to the floor, holding hands and lying quite close.

It’s perhaps the first time in their lives they were quite that close to each other, and noticed each other as girl and boy. Cut to the present day Saya, all grown up, wondering why that particular memory suddenly surfaced, but sure that Koko probably forgot about it.

When she arrives at Koko’s shop, Hotaru announces the featured candy of the day is – yup – Yogurets. Both Saya and Koko instantly blush, and Saya retreats, but she’s clearly happy Koko remembered after all. Such is the power of candy. 

This episode clinched for me what I’d always suspected: Saya is the true star of this show, and the reason I’m still tuning in. Hotaru has her moments, but she’s a mostly static, cavorting jester, while Saya is a warm, vulnerable human being with whom we can empathize.

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Dagashi Kashi – 05

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“Don’t get high on your own supply.” It’s a useful saying for both drug and candy dealers, apparently, because You started doing so with his bottle ramune, and has ended up consistently eating all his inventory, causing Kokonotsu to assume they don’t have it in stock.

Hotaru and You using peer pressure on Koko was pretty funny, along with the way the two kinda feed off each other’s chaotic energy, even leaving the store together in the middle of the night, promising to come back “clean.”

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This is one of the rare cases where I’ve had a candy vaguely similar to one in the show: those little wax soda bottles that contain sugary liquid you bite the tops (or bottoms) off. I don’t remember them being that addictive, however.

Anyway, all mention of You’s addiction disappears in the next bit, which starts later that night, as Koko walks in on You recording a truly terrible dagashi review of Baby-Star Ramen, a “by-product” dagashi born from the desire not to waste anything.

Koko gives a far more impassioned presentaion, unaware You is recording him in a video that gets a lot more hits than he ever did, as well as impressing Saya (who only has one brief appearance this week).

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Next up, Yatta! Men, another ramen-based snack that comes in little tiny cups with peel-off lids. When Koko and Tou lament their lack of spending money, Hotaru suggests they attempt to win said funds by trying their luck at Yatta! Men.

It’s here where we discover that, like Aqua in KonoSuba, Hotaru has dreadful luck, and seems incapable of selecting a winning cup, even as she collects enough ramen for Tou to make a bowl and slurp it up. No doubt some of that ramen contains Hotaru’s tears of defeat and frustration.

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Finally, Hotaru tries to rally back with more gambling; not a great strategy considering her luck thus far. She chooses a candy called “Watch Out for the Sour Grape!”. She entered into the game believing she could tell which of the three candies in each package was the super sour one from the sunglasses of one grape on the packaging (which Tou’s sunglasses reminded her of).

However, she’s thinking of the old packaging; there’s no such “hints” on he new design, and even if it was the old design, it was just a rumor and not true. In any case, Hotaru loses again, and is unable to mask her sour-face.

And there you have it: another serviceable tour of Japanese confectionery stocked with, shall we say, sporadic laughs. But five episodes in, despite the diversity of the candy and resultant hijinx, Hotaru and You’s shtick is beginning to lose its luster.

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Chihayafuru – 07

Needing two more members to make the Karuta Club official, Chihaya recruits – by dragging – the nerdy and skeptical Komano “Desktomu” to their clubroom to watch a match unfold. Taichi has been losing a lot to Chihaya lately, but when Desktomu suggests they truly test their memorization skills by flipping the cards over, Chihaya loses her main weapon – her speed – and Taichi creams her, bolstering his confidence.

There’s nothing like winning, and you cannot win if you do not play. In Taichi’s case, wins are few and far between – thanks to Chihaya’s latent catlike reflex time – but that makes the wins all the sweeter. His ridiculous mother insisted he only compete in fields in which he knows he can be the best. But where’s the challenge and fun in that? Similarly, Komamo stays in his safe place behind his desk, because he’s afraid of failure. Everybody fails, nerd. Even the best.

Taichi is starting to doubt whether Chihaya will ever improve past her current level playing someone as “talentless” as him, and considers Arata a better sparring partner for her. When Komano’s gambit results in a stunning victory for Taichi, Taichi’s confidence rushes back, and he remembers just how much he hates losing, both at karuta and in the struggle for Chihaya’s heart. He’s back, baby!


Rating: 4