More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 05 – Sharing fabric softener

Akari’s crush continues to be supplanted by feelings for the mock husband right in front of her, and throughout the episode she expresses this though lots of teasing and physical contact, starting with a loving wife’s hug before Jirou heads off for school duties. Little does he know that Shiori has arranged to swap duties with her sporty pianist wife Hamano Mei so she can get some quality time with Jirou.

Before the arrangement, Mei is trying to get Shiori to do what needs to be done to get the man she wants—which may yet involve a giant Acme-brand mallet with which to smack him over the head. Shiori says “Jirou doesn’t think of me that way” but Mei knows better; Shiori just needs to make her feelings plain and obvious before Akari snatches him up. Akari’s galfriends only tease her about the prospect of falling for Jirou, but they’re on the right track!

Despite my increasing affinity for Akari and Akari x Jirou, being a sucker for childhood friends I relished the opportunity for Shiori and Jirou to hang out together without interruptions from Akari, Minami, or Sadaharu (who sits this episode out; I don’t mind the guy but appreciated a break from him).

The results are predictable: having class duties together reminds them of when they had them in middle school, and the two settle into that warm, happy nostalgia and familiarity. But when it comes time to leave the safety of the past and try to grasp the future with a solicited kiss, Akari thinks he’s dreaming, while Shiori withdraws at the last moment and must beat the shit out of the erasers in frustration with herself.

Unfortunately, this leaves Jirou with the same impression as the start of the day: that while there are occasional signs here and there, Shiori doesn’t like him “that way”. That leaves him gloomy on the balcony an otherwise dazzlingly starry night, and Akari joins him with mugs of hot milk in a genuinely heartwarming gesture of trying to cheer him up.

That inherent kindness in Akari’s character is at odds with a deep resentment that he’s feeling so down over another girl, which of course reflects how he feels whenever she gets riled up about Minami. Akari decides to press the teasing by insisting he start calling her by her name, and is shocked when he does it immediately, while explaining why he had trouble before.

Akari gets much more than she bargained for here, and has to retreat before Jirou sees her beet-red face and ears. Gathering her patio door curtain around her, she curses these confusing feelings. To this point she’s been in love with the idea of Minami, but that idea is losing ground to the reality of Jirou.

When their teacher announces that practical couples’ scores will be combined and everaged together, Jirou is anxious, as he’s not sure the extent of Akari’s academic prowess. But rather than simply presume she’s a dunce, he asks her about it, and her tone and body language make it clear she’s far from confident about it.

He asks her to cancel her karaoke plans so they can study together, but she says it’s “not so easy” to break said plans because she was invited by other guys, as opposed to her galfriends. To this, Akari says “I’m asking for you too here,” and she relents, but believes he’s only being this “desperate” for Shiori’s sake. Meanwhile, Mei continues to prove that she may just be the most deserving of Shiori’s hand in marriage. If nothing else, she’s trying her best to make Shiori happy and successful in love.

Jirou finds that while Akari picks things up fast, she hates the fundamental idea of studying. Her frustration from the assumption he’s only doing this for him and Shiori leads her to up her teasing and flirting game considerably, cozying up to Jirou and saying he can “do whatever he wants”.

Jirou averts his gaze, and ends up seeing that Akari figured did a challenging math problem correctly. The rest of the study session progresses and their couple score continues to go up. When they’re done, Akari isn’t ready to eat dinner yet, and would rather get Jirou to admit she makes his heart race.

She does this by jumping into his lap, but she grows more frustrated when he tries to ignore her, so she turns around so they’re front-to-front, and tells him he can look at her if he wants. When he still won’t, she grabs him even tighter, and he ends up flipping them over so she’s on her back.

At this point the two are in dangerous territory, and Akari can hear his heart pounding now. It’s here where Jirou starts to let his hormones take over, caressing her cheek. Akari says he can’t once, then twice, but then takes hold of his shoulder to pull him nearer, and closes her eyes to prepare for a kiss …

I knew amorous congress was going to be interrupted by something, be it doorbell, phone, or Sadaharu. This time, it’s Jirou’s nose, which suddenly starts bleeding. Though Jirou thanks his nose profusely for stopping him from doing something he’d regret. Once the bleeding is stemmed by a tissue, the two fold laundry together—the hot-and-heaviness replaced by a picture of domestic bliss.

Akari laughs at Jirou for getting a bloody nose in such a situation, but Jirou in turn asks her what is up with her pestering him so heavily all night. She brings up how she’s frustrated by how desperately he’s trying to prevent Shiori from leaving him behind. He, in turn, tells her he’s not just doing it for him and Shiori, but her and Minami, and further tells her he’s sure she’d reach A-rank with anyone, not just him. He simply hoped that after she’d gained so many points for them, he’d try to contribute by helping with her studies.

Jirou doesn’t know just how happy it makes Akari to hear that, because as far as he’s concerned she doesn’t feel anything serious for him, and her amorous actions have only been to tease him. But Akari is feeling less grateful that he’s doing this for her and Minami when it’s currently the two of them together that makes her heart race for real. She thinks about a future where they switch partners, and their clothes no longer smell like the same fabric softener, and … it’s not necessarily something she wants.

Fuukoi continues to do tremendous character work in the midst of what will always be a silly and contrived premise, and its deft “couch time” animation and Akari’s facial expressions in general continue to impress. There’s still a lot of confusion and awkwardness from all parties, but Shiori is gradually fumbling her way closer to Jirou, while dangerous couch session Akari’s true feelings may be coming into better focus.

Jirou’s self-loathing-fueled obliviousness can’t hold out forever. If it isn’t already, his confidence in Shiori being his one and only will surely start taking the same dents as Akari’s in Minami being hers.

More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 04 – Shoulder to cry on

During P.E. class when Minami is playing basketball and generally looking like a higher form of life, both Akari and Jirou hear from their friend(s) that he and Shiori are considering staying with one another as a marriage practical couple despite making A-rank.

This news obviously puts a wrench in Akari and Jirou’s plan, leaving both feeling blue. Jirou, knowing how much Akari likes Minami, imagines he’s in a fantasy video game and Minami ends up beating the final boss and winning the hearts of both heroines.

When Jirou and Shiori cross paths, to Jirou’s credit he doesn’t pretend something isn’t bothering him, and Shiori’s known him long enough to know that something is. She says she’s not sure yet whether she and Minami are extending their time together, so Jirou starts to try to tell her he’ll work hard to attain A-rank so that they can be paired together.

Meanwhile, Akari gets cleanup duty for chatting during P.E., and ends up crossing paths with Minami. His sudden presence in the storage room startles her, and she bumps into a shelf, causing a box to start to fall. Minami rushes towards her and starts to fall, leaving them face-to-face.

Akari asks Minami what Jirou asked Shiori, and his answer is yes, he’ll stay by Shiori’s side “forever” if that’s what she wants. Throughout the whole exchange but unbeknownst to Minami, Akari’s heart is beating like a hummingbird, and when she hears what sounds like a rejection from his lips, she starts to cry. Then Minami puts his hand on her chin…

I say Jirou started to tell Shiori he wanted to pair with her, because he isn’t able to get the words out. I would have hoped Shiori would have gotten the gist but she apparently doesn’t when Jirou’s friend Kamo interrupts, having seen Akari and Minami in the storage room together.

But before Kamo can say anything, Minami and Akari exit the school, and Jirou senses a strange atmosphere. Minami and Shiori head home together chatting spiritedly about nothing in particular, while Akari acts awkward and distant towards Jirou and heads off on her own.

He later learns that Akari ditched class, and Kamo tells him he witnessed “kissing going on” between Minami and Akari. He shrugs it off as having nothing to do with him, but it’s clear that he has conflicting feelings about it, what with he and Akari getting along so well of late.

When he comes home, Akari is lying on the couch on her phone, looking morose. He sits down beside her, sarcastically apologizes for not being Minami, and she asks him upfront why he’d bring him up. That’s when, again, to his credit, Jirou doesn’t beat around the bush, but says what he heard: that she was kissing Minami after P.E.

Akari laughs it off, as in reality he was just checking her eye for dust; Kamo saw what he wanted to saw from the angle he had. Akari thinks it’s “hilarious” that Jirou thought a misunderstanding from “straight out of a manga” took place. But Jirou tells her he was ready to root for her, and it’s only fair to expect her to get some kind of return considering how hard she’s been working to get Minami to look her way.

At this, Akari’s mask of sarcasm drops, and bitter tears of frustration start to fall. Jirou is right in theory, but the reality is Minami doesn’t see her that way, and more and more seems to be content to be with Shiori, even beyond the marriage practical situation. When she realizes she’s crying in front of Jirou, she tells him to look away, and he does … kinda. He pulls her into an embrace so that his head is next to hers.

In this way, he’s technically “looking away”, but he’s also there for her, in a moment when she needs someone to be there. She needs to have a good cry without the pressure of having to hold it in to keep up appearances. At this point, Jirou knows who Watanabe Akari is more than anyone else at school, Minami included. And Akari, no doubt having that feeling of being safe and secure in Jirou’s arms, puts her arm around him and cries it out.

After this cathartic moment, Jirou feels self-conscious for overreaching, literally and figuratively, but he did the right thing, as evidenced by Akari’s mood after a cleansing shower. First, she borrows one of his t-shirts, resulting in the deceptively powerful boyfriend shirt scenario. Then she plops right down beside him, leans on him, and has some ice cream as she watches TV.

When he insists he’s no longer overwhelmed by situations like this, she puts her ear to his chest and calls him a liar, as his heart is racing. Of course, since she was worried Minami could hear her beating heart in the storage room, she can relate, which is why she’s so comfortable around Jirou now.

She also hastens to mention that she’s not so “easy” that she’d kiss Minami on a whim, and in any case, she says to him for the first time that her first kiss ever was with Jirou. Jirou sits there unresponsive as she shakes him and urges him to answer for that kiss, and as he does, he admits in his thoughts how happy he feels.

Perhaps for the first time, he’s not thinking about losing Shiori to Minami, or Akari preferring Minami to him. He and and Akari are simply sitting together on their couch, enjoying each other’s company; a cozy, caring family of two. It’s something I could honestly watch all day.

More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 03 – Starting over from zero

Akari knows Jirou is in love with Shiori, but wants to know specifically why he’s drawn to an earnest, family-oriented girl, and what he wants such a girl to do for him. He wisely says “lunch”, which sets Akari off on a homemade bento kick.

She proves to be a very good bento cook, and they gain lots of points as cook and taste-tester, but one little detail—a lack of sugar in the rolled omelet—reminds Jirou that she’s doing all of this for Minami, not him. That shouldn’t bother him, as he’s into Shiori…and yet.

Jirou also can’t help but feel a little…left out when Akari goes all out to look as cute as possible to deliver a bento to Minami at his part-time job. But then Akari asks him for another goodbye kiss as a reward for her hard work, and tells him she only wants his kiss, since it made her feel safe.

Before he can summon the guts to kiss her again, Shiori shows up with extra apple pies she made for Minami, citing his sweet tooth. When she sees Akari with Jirou and a box lunch for an apparent picnic, she leaves feeling lonely. Little does she know she caused Akari’s confidence to absolutely plummet.

She never delivers the bento, and sits on the couch with her head in her knees. Jirou tries to cheer her up, but the bottom line is, she though she could appeal to Minami with cooking, but was wrong about him not liking sweet things, and now doesn’t know what to do.

Jirou tells her she has “tons more good points”, but when put on the spot, the only things he lists are related to her looks, body, and sex appeal. When she asks if he’s ever though about her that way, he says no, but she knows he’s lying. Then she jumps on top of him.

The animation and Oonishi Saori’s voice acting do a lot of strong, heavy lifting here, as the scene strides the line between being amorous and a little forced. You can see in Akari’s face and hear in her voice that she’s just as unsure about this as Jirou is, and yet she’s trying to press forward.

Jirou pushes through his body’s urge to “graduate” from virginity and rejects Akari’s advances, saying it’s only something you do with someone you love. Leaving aside that this is false, this results in Akari getting off him and saying they should stop this whole fake marriage thing.

That’s just what they do, and at the next month-end eval, Shiori sees that they’ve fallen to 75th place while she and Minami are up to 8th. She knows something’s wrong; Jirou knows it too, and knows that he erred. When he felt Akari’s cold trembling hand, he knew that he was wrong about her: what they were doing on that couch was just as new to her as it was to him.

Shiori invites Jirou onto the school roof to talk to him about things, and really does yeoman’s work as his trusty childhood friend, albeit by subordinating her own feelings. She promises him that no matter how much he screwed up with Akari, he can make things right.

Shiori’s pep talk is just what Jirou needs to break the awkwardness stalemate and give him the courage to knock on his fake wife’s door. To his shock, she not only answers but invites him into her uber-girly room, where he proceeds to apologize, but also provides a lot of real, honest talk.

He admits the obvious, that he’s fantasized about her, but also that it wasn’t like he didn’t want to do it with her, only that he wanted to do it with more care than the spur-the-moment scenario they found themselves in when she was discouraged about cooking for Minami.

He doesn’t go so far as to “out” Akari as just as much a virgin as she is, but he almost doesn’t have to, as hearing him come out and say all these things makes her face red as a beet and has her retreating into her bedsheet. But Jirou also asserts that he doesn’t like it when things are awkward between them.

Pulling back the sheet from her head like a bride’s vail, he declares that he wants them to be a married couple again. When he realizes he left out “for the practical” and stumbles all over his words, it evokes a hearty laugh from Akari, who attempts to save face by mocking him for being so desperate.

But she also ends up telling him—in just as disarmed a way as he just said all those embarrassing but true things—that she “likes him quite a lot”, even calling him by his first name. She laughs it off, but later on her balcony she covers her mouth with her hands in shock over having “said it.”

She says it in a way that could mean she’s been meaning to say it for a while. In any case, they’re giving this marriage another go, but this time they both have a deeper understanding of the kind of people the two of them actually are. That new understanding definitely has the potential to make them more attracted to one another as partners.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The aquatope on white sand – 20 – Outside the tank

Kukuru has hit a wall again. There’s too much work to do, and not enough time to do it with the organizational skills she currently possesses. Her boss Suwa remains as unfeeling as a Vulcan. He doesn’t say it, but it’s implied every time he barks his catchphrase “That’s all from me”—which he didn’t actually say this week! What he’s really saying is “If you can’t cut it, I’ll find someone who can.”

Kukuru’s a free spirit, and being wound up so tight in that fish-less office is wearing on her. She seeks any relief, whether it’s pressing her face against the main tank (her sole interaction with Kai. Sorry Kai!) or going out to a lagoon to observe a lost baby dolphin, whom she names Ban-chan. She doesn’t just love how cute Ban-chan is, she also envies his freedom.

This is one of many excellent images that show rather than tell how things are going for Kukuru this week…she’s behind literal bars! She wakes up from a dream that she’s drowning! On top of all the other projects that keep her in the office well past office hours, Suwa orders her to prepare a presentation for a wedding planner for ceremonies at Tingarla. Kukuru gets to it … but is never into it.

Back home, her Gramps and Tingarla’s boss Hoshino discuss things at Udon-chan’s mom’s restaurant, which Udon-chan’s mom has to run instead of drinking because Udon-chan ain’t there. Hoshino says Kukuru is doing her best in marketing…no “but”! Gramps knows Kukuru and so knows how hard it must be, but still believes being “outside the tank” she grew up in will ultimately prove to be a “good experience.”

Perhaps it’s because Kukuru has no mom or dad to guide her during this crucial time when she’s just started adulting that he believes tough love is the solution. Kukuru gives it the old college try with the wedding presentation, but the show wasn’t fooling anyone. I knew she was going to bomb, and that Suwa wasn’t going to console her. That said, he seems neither mad nor disappointed in Kukuru’s first big presentation. I just wish we could have gotten something from the guy…maybe hear about his first presentation.

The wedding project isn’t ruined, it just needs a fairly substantial redo. But the cost of the presentation (whether it went well or not) is much steeper for Kukuru. She misses out on Fuuka going diving with Ban-chan, and she returns to Tingarla too late to see Airi, the girl in the hospital who came to visit. Karin tells her not to feel bad; she had work. But now work is taking up so much time and energy it’s denying Kukuru a lot of the things give her joy and happiness.

While working overtime again, Kukuru snaps—but softly; more like a stalk of kelp than a hard branch. As her eyes blur, she asks herself Why was I trying so hard again? So she could get more work and see less of the things and people she loves? That can’t be right!

Then she remembers her Gramps telling her Gama Gama was going to be demolished soon, so if she wanted to see it one last time, she’d better hurry. But work kept her from saying goodbye to Gama Gama while it was still whole. When she arrives by taxi late at night, it’s just a pile of rubble.

Kukuru’s already tattered spirit shattered into a thousand pieces at the sight of that rubble. There’s no melodramatic tears; I was reminded of Titus Andronicus when he said “I have no more tears to shed.” She just looks…defeated. Spent. The next day, Kukuru skips work, but work goes on without her.

There’s a parallel between Kukuru’s arc and Ban-chan’s. Both have been set loose—the dolphin got separated from his family, Kukuru got thrown out of the tank to either succeed or fail. Even though I know the show is not going push Kukuru to suicide, she is definitely not having a “good experience”.  Her absence from the office is frankly chilling, and I just hope she’s somewhere safe and close to loved ones.

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 15 – Shokugeki no Jahy

With the Dark Lord restored and her nemesis now her pawn, Jahy wants a reward for all this progress in the form of her dear friend Kokoro’s company and praise. Unfortunately, Kyouko is still following Jahy around like a lost puppy. When Jahy takes Kokoro and runs, Kyouko assumes it’s a game of tag and chases after them with her Magical Girl Speed.

When hopes of Kyouyko being carted off by the cops are dashed, Jahy finds herself in the awkward position of having to admit that Kyouko (whose name she just learns now) is a friend. Not only that, she has to come to terms with the fact that Dear Kokoro belongs to no one, and she is biologically incapable of not becoming friends with someone.

Thus, Jahy must adjust to the fact her playdates will consist of both Kokoro and Kyouko. Yet when she heads to work looking forward to being away from her, she learns Kyouko has responded to a flyer for a part-time job, and the manager hires her on the spot. Now Kyouko is her friend and co-worker.

At first, Jahy is happy for the prospect of extra help—she’s asked for it in the past—but as expected, Kyouko is as big an accident-prone klutz serving customers as she is defeating evil as a magical girl. Jahy only salvages the situation by wowing the customers with feats of balance and dexterity…catching everything Kyouko drops.

Kyouko is discouraged when Jahy orders her to stop doing…everything and just stand back and observe, but the manager assures her it will be okay. Jahy, after all, was horrible when she first started, but as the manager has come to learn, Jahy will give something she cares about her all.

Thanks to Jahy’s diligent training, Kyouko ends up learning the ropes fast and finding her footing. It also has to help that Jahy found a tiny mana crystal in Kyouko’s hair, which must have been causing at least some of her serving mishaps.

Jahy exhibits her typical snobbishness in foisting something the manager wants help with on Kyouko, only to parkour herself over to the dining area with fork and knife in hand when she learns that something is a taste test for new menu items, starting with stewed flounder.

While Kyouko offers gourmet criticism that wouldn’t be out of place in Food Wars (and must indeed be a nod to that franchise), Jahy is more cryptic, both because she’s not so well-versed in food critic-speak, but also because she wants to use this opportunity to eat tasty food for free…which is truly the feral demoness we know and love.

As a result, Jahy is able to sample ginger pork and then cubed Wagyu steak. Eating meat revitalizes her like nothing else, as she’d become so used to bean sprouts due to her low budget. But the steak gives her a full-on Food Wars-style foodgasm, metaphorically stripping her clothes off and sending her straight to steak nirvana.

What makes all this indulgence possible are two key qualities of the manager and Kyouko: the former has been overthinking her menu so much she’s not thinking straight, while the latter is so deferent and adoring of her first and best friend that she’s not thinking straight either. In the absence of better judgment, Jahy is able to feast to her dark heart’s content.

Unfortunately someone who does have better judgment (at least when she’s not knocking back booze) arrives in the form of the landlady, who stops this charade by very clearly identifying what’s going on here (Jahy just wants food) and vetoing the choice of steak on the menu (since they’d never make a profit).

Then the Demon Lord shows up out of nowhere, drawn to the pub by some combination of her meal ticket Kyouko, Jahy’s mana crystals, and the smell of delicious food. She polishes off all the food and wants more, but Kyouko cuts her off before she can cause lasting damager to the manager’s business.

The lord is upset, but Kyouko mitigates that by promising she can have her choice of anything at the konbini on their way home. Jahy has to watch in outrage as her Demon Lord walks away hand-in-hand with Kyouko. If Jahy could out-feed her superior, she could defeat Kyouko in this fresh predicament. Alas, bean sprouts aren’t going to get it done…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The aquatope on white sand – 19 – The white dolphin in the red pumps

Fuuka’s not-to-distant past life catches up to her, as a film crew from Yona Productions intends to film a tv show at Tingarla…with Fuuka’s idol kohai Shiori Ruka as the co-host. They’re also very keen on Fuuka being the other co-host. Fuuka’s immediate, unhesitant response? “But I’m done with TV…”

As Karin gives Ruka and the crew a tour to familiarize themselves with the aquarium, Kukuru ducks out of work (and she’s got a lot of work) to make sure Fuuka is okay having remnants of her old life around. Fuuka assures her she’s fine; she’s going to turn down the co-hosting role. She’s an attendant now.

Fuuka intends to take Ruka out for one-on-one dinner, but Udon-chan ends up inviting everyone else (except Kukuru, who is working overtime). Ruka is up for the liveliness until she isn’t, and goes out onto the deserted patio to sit and reflect.

Fuuka comes out to give her some less intense company, and truly does look like a capital-S Senpai in the way she confidently counsels Ruka. She knows Ruka is working as hard as she is in part for Fuuka’s sake, so Fuuka tells her not to forget to work for Shiori Ruka’s sake.

It’s only later Fuuka learns why Ruka is so down aside from having not “made it” yet: she’s been being harassed online by her detractors, saying she’s getting unfairly promoted relative to her talent or some such nonsense. As Umi-yan puts it, the fans don’t see how hard she’s really working.

After a few awkward moments during filming, Ruka joins Fuuka for a break where Fuuka often comes to relax and recharge during a stressful day. She offers Ruka her pair of red pumps she intended to wear on stage one day, but never did.

Fuuka no longer needs them as a talisman of encouragement, as she’s found the place where she belongs and the thing she loves to do. So she gives them to Ruka, hoping they’ll be a source of strength for her too. If nothing else, they’ll remind Ruka of her dear senpai Fuuka, whom she clearly, genuinely admires and loves.

That admiration and love only grows during the final climactic scene in the tv show, when the new baby penguin jumps into the pool for the first time and immediately takes to it like…well, a penguin to a pool! Nervous and timid, the little one needs a little push in order to make that leap into the water, and Fuuka is there to give it.

It’s such a little gesture, and yet so meaningful and affecting both for the film crew, Fuuka’s co-workers, and the huge, rapt audience. Seeing Fuuka be the best damn aquarium attendant she can be literally brings tears to Ruka’s eyes…genuine ones, not forced ones.

That unforced sincerity ends up on film, and just may be one of the things that brings Ruka more fans going forward.  Like the little push she gave the adorable baby penguin, Fuuka may have given the little push—and red pumps—Ruka needed to take the next step in her fledgling career.

The aquatope on white sand – 15 – Seaslugfest

Buoyed in part by the return of Fuuka, Kukuru has found her rhythm in the marketing office, and is starting to show her competence. Of course, this means her boss Suwa just foists more work upon her. But it’s not done out of malice; it’s a sign that he trusts her to get it done. While having a relaxing lunch outside, Fuuka reminds Kukuru of that.

As such, when Suwa gives Kukuru her largest responsibility yet: a two week exhibition. Kukuru gives it her absolute all preparing a variety of proposals, not merely so she can silence Suwa’s doubt in her (though that’s part of it), but because it’s a golden opportunity to nerd the ef OUT over sea life. She ends up knocking it out of the park with her proposal, which is accepted on the spot. Mind you, Suwa doesn’t offer “Plankton” any praise…but it’s still a huge victory!

Kukuru decides the exhibition will be exclusively sea slugs, the jewels of the sea. I have to admit I hadn’t given sea slugs much thought up until this episode, but I have to admit they’re as gorgeous as they are weird. Kai gets all excited about Kukuru asking him to join her at the shore to collect the creatures, only to find Kukuru invited Fuuka too. His romantic fumbling doesn’t go unnoticed by Eiji, who suggests he try to be a bit more bold.

Like her earlier projects, Kukuru is constantly having to butt heads with people with whom she simply has a lot of trouble getting along besides the minimal professional cordialness. One of those figures is Kaoru, who granted comes of as pretty prickly and inflexible anyway. But Kukuru has gained more spine since joining Tingaara, and one thing she will not countenance is exhibiting the sea slugs without feeding them.

The vast variety of sea slugs doesn’t just pertain to their looks, you see, but also their diet. One species likes one kind of sea sponge or moss, the other ignores it completely. Eventually she finds the right food for all but one of the species to be exhibited, but in the process of obsessing over that eighth, Kukuru completely forgets her tour duties. Chiyu, another one like oil to Kukuru’s water, doesn’t let her forget she messed up, while all Fuuka can do is try to keep the peace.

On the eve of the exhibition, Kukuru is working late hours, and she’s got bags under her eyes. Who should press a cool canned coffee against her head but Kai, perhaps trying to be a bit bolder as Eiji advised. Kai asks if he can do anything for the clearly overworked Kukuru, and she says yes there is: he can put up his hands so she can punch them! In the heat of the stress-relieving spar session, Kai wraps his fingers around her fist, kinda-sora-unconsciously seeking gentler contact than the usual punches.

No sooner is this contact made than Kai apologizes and the drew draw back. But even if Kai’s courtship doesn’t pay off, a different kind of ritual takes place between Kukuru and Kaoru…they come to a détente! Over, what else, their mutual passion for all things living in or near the sea! I’m not sure why Kuuya misgendered Kaoru, but I for one am elated to see her and Kukuru put aside their differences and focus on the common ground they share.

Kaoru even invites Kukuru to the shore! At the same time, she and Chiyu may never get along, nor will Suwa ever give her a break or crack a grin. But that’s okay! Just as not all sea slugs eat the same food, not all people can get along. It’s just surpassingly gratifying when it suddenly, unexpectedly happens.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The aquatope on white sand – 14 – Nunca te rindas

I don’t know about you, but Fuuka’s sudden appearance on the beach and her and Kukuru’s warm embrace are romantic as all get out. Just look at that shot: Fuuka is basically Kukuru’s valiant prince, drying her eyes strained from tears of frustration and filling them right back up with pure unbridled joy. Even better: Fuuka is back for good. She’ll be working at Tingaara…and even moved next door to Kukuru.

That’s a lot of surprises, but Kukuru is fine with all of them, because if ever there was a time she needed Fuuka close by, it’s now, when she’s feeling totally unmoored in her marketing job. Thanks to Gramps, Fuuka was able to get a job at Tingaara, and Chiyu is clearly not okay Gama Gama nepotism. If she’s going to accept Fuuka as a colleague and not a up-jumped hanger-on, Fuuka must memorize all 20 of the cape penguins.

“There’s no ‘Gama Gama Faction!'”, the Gama Gama Faction protested as they all went out to eat together. Though replacing Kuuya is Eiji, who is tastefully intrigued by the former idol-turned-penguin attendant. Rumors of cliquery aside, I like how the Gama Gama exiles still hang together after work, lay down their troubles, and enjoy Udon-chan’s widening culinary repertoire.

Kukuru admits after dinner that a part of her felt jealous that Fuuka got the job she thought she’d get at Tingaara, but fully admits that kind of thinking is childishness she wants to grow past. With  Karin, Chiyu, and her fellow marketeer Akari (voiced by the Saekano heroine herself, Yasuno Kiyano!) an now Fuuka, she has plenty of girlsboss to emulate. She even discovers she does have a knack for making people care and fall in love with aquariums, as she takes the aquarium-indifferent Akari on a rehearsal tour and wins her over.

This week Kukuru does indeed work harder and smarter than her first bumbling/arrogant days, staying meek and formal on the outside, but keeping that burning fire in her belly stoked. She learns the value of forming little alliances with others to make things easier, and figuring out the precise way to deal with people. Take Chiyu’s second-in-command Marina (Touyama Nao—this cast is stacked): since Kukuru is Fuuka’s friend and Fuuka is cool, Marina will go to bat to change Chiyu’s mind about including the penguins on the tour.

Speaking of intricate social patterns, this week was a low-key cape penguin documentary, as we observe along with Fuuka how to tell the twenty penguins apart not just by their colored wing bands, but how they behave. And while Fuuka was only at Gama Gama for a month, that was enough to know when the birds are agitated due to their sudden new environment (mirroring Kukuru’s own difficulties).

Kukuru believes it was not only Fuuka acing the name-that-penguin test, but recognizing and acknowledging the emotional state of the birds that impressed Chiyu enough to give the go-ahead for their (limited) exposure to tour groups. Kukuru only manages to get a family of four in her first tour, but she ends up nailing the tour just as well as Fuuka nailed her test, showing that the director didn’t throw her into this new environment willy-nilly. He knew she’d eventually figure it out and thrive.

Is Kukuru’s anhedonic ass of a boss Suwa pissed she only snagged one group of four? Absolutely. Does Kukuru let him get her down for long? Nope! She walks out of that office ready to keep up the fight. The episode ends as it began, with Kukuru and Fuuka looking like a particularly happily married couple, this time cooking dinner side by side.

Kukuru gives Fuuka the credit for changing Chiyu’s mind by proving she not only knew about but cared about the penguins. But that’s not entirely fair to herself…who helped Fuuka study for that penguin test? More to the point, Fuuka makes it clear that while she feels she belongs in an aquarium now, the main reason Fuuka is back is to be with Kukuru. Kukuru just so happens to also belong in an aquarium, so it’s allll sea gravy!

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 08 – Too Much of a Good Thing

After a thoroughly unpleasant cold bath in her cramped metal tub, a hungry Jahy wanders the streets until picked up by a giant white limo sent by, who else, her trusty attendant Druj. A sumptuous feast of sweets awaits her, and a remote control transports her into starry space. She doesn’t want the ultimately short ride to end; she wants to live in that limo.

However, duty calls. Druj, who is the president of a profitable consulting firm, wants Jahy to give a motivational speech to some young corporate recruits. While I thought Jahy might get stage fright from being out of the spotlight for so long, she ends up having no problem taking the stage and speaking…if only the overeager Druj would let her speak.

The raucous applause that follows Jahy’s time on stage doesn’t please her in the least, because Druj kept interrupting her with what she expected her to say. In a way, perhaps Druj was actually protecting Jahy from embarassing herself by sounding like a chuuni, but on the limo ride back Jahy looks suddenly disillusioned with all the preferential treatment. When Druj invites her to a party, she cheers up a bit.

At work, the manager notices Jahy is smelling a little ripe, the product of only bathing once every three days—and without hot water or soap. This is how Jahy discovers an absolutely kick-ass bathhouse within walking distance of the pub. In addition to vicariously enjoying the simple pleasures of hot water, steam, and sweet-smelling shampoo, Manager can’t help but pamper Jahy (especially when she’s in child form), all while Saurva creepily lurks in the background.

The night of Druj’s Dark Realm party arrives, and at first it’s a lovely simulacrum of Jahy’s former lifestyle, complete with decent approximations of Dark Realm delicacies and using Druj as a chair. But there are constantly little real-world interruptions that ruin the fantasy for Jahy, such as when Druj, while still being sat on, switches to Corporate Mode on her cell.

I have no doubt Jahy appreciates Drujs’ not inconsiderable efforts to make her feel like she’s back home, but the bottom line is she’s not home, and her home doesn’t exist anymore because she wasn’t strong enough to protect it. After the evening of fun, Jahy returns to her ratty apartment and cries bitter tears over things lost, and frustration at her lack of progress.

So she runs inside and basically howls at the moon that she basically won’t let herself be defeated. It’s moments like these when we see the real vulnerable Jahy that have really endeared her to me as a character. Much like Nagatoro, she contains multitudes…nearly all of them charming and adorable.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 07 – A Girl Called Kokomo

There aren’t any major breakthroughs this week in Jahy’s quest to Not Be Defeated, but that’s not surprising as this isn’t the final or even penultimate episode, despite the week it’s airing. It’s a way more laid-back and varied affair, starting with Jahy becoming workout buddies with Manager Alas, just as she’s really getting into it, the Manager ends the sessions, having reached her target weight loss.

The next segment has nothing to do with working out and everything to do with endurance, as Jahy is kept awake at night by loud neighbors playing rock music. She ends up countering their noise with her own banging of a steel tub with a saucepan, and the band seems to react to her outbursts. That said, the next morning she learns from Ryou that no one lives on the other side of the wall the music wass coming from. Was it ghosts? Magic? All in Jahy’s bean sprout-addled head?

In the next segment Jahy returns to the unglamorous drudgery of combing various areas for Mana Crystals. When she sees that a boy has found what looks like one, and asks him to hand it over, he refuses. Then she transforms into Adult Mode and the kid runs away crying, calling her “pervert lady.” He drops the stone, but it’s not even a crystal.

Jahy continues to search for crystals when a little girl named Kokomo enthusiastically agrees to help her out. Even when it looks like finding anything is hopeless, Kokomo’s optimism and angelic smile (backlit by the setting sun) give Jahy the fuel to keep looking.

Eventually it grows to late, but Kokomo presents Jahy with something she did manage to find: a four-leaf clover. Presented as it usually is as a talisman of good luck, a thoroughly moved Jahy decides on the spot to treasure it. When we see her next hard at work at the izakaya she’s wearing it in her hair. Maybe the Dark Realm’s second-in-command will finally have some luck in the Mana Crystal department in the coming weeks.

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 06 – Two Drunk Besties

After her harrowing encounter with the enormous Magical Girl, Jahy is spooked by the mere word “maho”, whether it’s a student’s name, or Mahogany wood, or some kind of mantra. This segment plays with depth of field to subtly show Jahy retreating headfirst into a garbage can.

She ends up losing her precious giant mana crystal, but Manager ends up finding it for her. It’s at this point Jahy determines she can’t move forward if she continues to rely on the kindness and generosity of others. The seriousness of her farewell is quickly undermined by the Manager urging her to take a bath immediately.

Jahy later encounters a young woman carrying a mana crystal just like hers, and assumes she’s just some weak human. Turns out it’s the Magical Girl in disguise. She wants Jahy’s mana crystal, and no matter how much misfortune befalls her as a result, she’s able to bear the punishment due to her Magical Girl super strength and toughness.

This results in the Magical Girl making off with Jahy’s giant mana crystal along with her own. It’s a huge loss for Jahy, basically putting her back at square one. Just imagine if the Magical Girl had an actual brain rattling around inside her skull…Jahy would be well and truly fucked!

Jahy proceeds to use her original mana crystal to transform into adult mode so she can wash away her sorrows, one liter of beer at a time. The Manager doesn’t necessarily approve, but she doesn’t stop pouring the beer, either. Then her sister Ryou arrives, and rather than continue their rivalry, drink Jahy tells her to park her keister next to her and start drinking.

Ryou proves every bit as rambunctious a drunk as Jahy, and the two complement each other perfectly, with Jahy lamenting all her flaws and Ryou countering them with heartfelt praise. She tells Jahy she’s proud of her for managing to get by in a foreign land. The two proceed to have a rager of a night, dancing, hugging, holding each other, and generally having a swell old time.

The next morning, Jahy wakes up naked next to a sleeping Ryou on the floor of the bar where Manager left them. That nefarious Manager also happened to snap a whole bunch of photographic and video evidence of Jahy and Ryou not just getting along, but getting along famously like absolute best buds. Jahy demands immediate erasure, but the Manager will surely save a couple of choice shots to remember that night.

Finally, in the disconnected omake following the credits, we get several mini-episodes of a cooking show starring Jahy, where the only recipe ever prepared is stir-fried bean sprouts with various seasonings. By the end of the segment Jahy’s bubbly enthusiasm has totally evaporated, and if she looks at another bean sprout in a hundred years it’ll be too soon. So naturally, Ryou arrives with a big bag of fresh sprouts.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 05 – Jahy’s Dizzy Fever Day

This show will certainly let Jahy have it at times, and when it comes to the atrocities she committed in the Dark Realm, well…ignorance is bliss. But I like how Jahy, despite once being someone for whom servants did everything, is actually really good at her job at Craft Pub Maou. If only she didn’t insist on leaving work dressed in the peak of Dark Realm fashion, which in a residential neighborhood apparently gets the cops on your back.

The flashbacks to Jahy’s previous AACAB (All Anime Cops Are Bastards) moments are wonderful, as is the twist that she wasn’t the suspicious character reported. There’s then another twist when Jahy is certain the other character is the Magical Girl who destroyed the Dark Realm, only for it to be some Math Teacher blowing off steam in Magical Girl cosplay. Also gratifying is seeing her boss and landlady picking her up from the station.

In the next segment, Jahy acts like a real pill, mocking the landlady for bundling up after she catches cold due to the sudden change in weather. But the landlady isn’t there to fight (or collect rent): she’s there to warn Jahy not to wear nothing but what she wears, whether it’s the belt top in big form or her breezy t-shirt in kid form. Jahy laughs at the landlady’s concerns…how could The Great Jahy catch cold?!

Well, quite easily, as it turns out, especially since Jahy makes no effort to adjust her wardrobe for the seasons. She spends one miserable, half-delirious night lamenting her plight, but also lamenting how alone she feels. The next morning she finds not only that the boss has come over to make her rice porridge, but the landlady went out to buy her medicine. These two women really do care for Jahy, and can tell she’s been through a lot.

No sooner do they leave, however, than the notorious Magical Girl shows up at her door. Jahy is struck by how daggum huge the girl is, but luckily the Magical girl doesn’t see her as Jahy, but just a little girl. When the girl asks Jahy to cough up the mana crystal, it dawns on Jahy how overmatched she is.

Not only is she in tiny mode; she’s running a fever. If the Magical Girl wanted to take her crystal, she could have….were it not for the Landlady to the rescue, calling the cops on the very tall, very suspicious young woman in maho shoujo cosplay

Not only does the Landlady save Jahy’s skin, she even sits guard beside her bed so Jahy can rest easy. And it works; while Jahy is nigh inconsolable with tears over how scared and helpless she felt, those tears soon subside and she’s able to get the rest she needs to get better. The Landlady really showed me something this week, as she and Jahy are now less enemies than sisters.

Just to push that point home, the omake segment involves Jahy and Landlady as gaudy pro wrestlers. And here’s the key part: even if two wrestlers look like they hate each others’ guts and want to tear each other limb from limb, rarely is that beef genuine. Rather, both wrestlers are playing roles in an elaborate choreographed performance.

Due to the physical punishment involved, it requires not only talent but mutual trust and respect to pull off an exciting, and more importantly safe match…even if it ends in a tie, as it always does for these two.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 04 – Living A Day In Her Shoes

This week marks the introduction of The Magnificent Salwa (also spelled Saurva), Jahy’s self-professed rival for the Number Two spot in the Dark Realm pre-ruin. Now that Salwa has found Jahy and spent three months working on a potion that will increase her power thirtyfold, she’s determined to bring Jahy down, steal her mana crystal, restore the Dark Realm and rule it as its new leader. Things don’t go as planned, as she runs into Jahy way too easily, drops her potion, and then a puppy laps it up and grows thirty feet tall.

After Salwa is rescued by regular folk from that giant puppy’s jaws, she changes up her tactics, Wile E. Coyote-style. She downs a pill that lets her transform into Jahy, so she can ruin Jahy’s reputation with her “associates.” Unfortunately for Salwa, the landlady already holds Jahy in particularly low esteem, and is so intimidating that Jahy!Salwa cowers and pays up.

Jahy!Salwa also predictably ends up slinging drinks at the izakaya (while the real Jahy in child form oversleeps back home). In Jahy’s stead Salwa gets really into the work and goes above and beyond, impressing the manager. Salwa is so proud she can’t help but fall into the manager’s bosom and weep tears of joy over a job well done. In this display and the one with the landlady, Salwa seems totally ill-equipped to supplant Jahy.

…That is, until the next segment, when Jahy, in child form, has only 306 yen to her name. She confidently strikes out for the nearest shopping district to make more money…somehow. Instead, she ends up spending 300 of the 306 yen on tasty street food; the vendors happily taking her for literally all she’s got.

Jahy goes to work as usual, but the manager can tell she’s off. For one thing, she’s serving empty glasses of beer to customers who didn’t order beer; for another, her face is gaunt, indicating malnutrition. Back in the break room Jahy confesses to having less yen to her name than fingers on her hands, and the manager offers to give her an advance on her pay just this once.

Jahy knows she didn’t save every yen she had, but thanks to the manager, she won’t starve, and has hopefully learned a lesson not to splurge too much. She also ends up sobbing into manager’s bosom just one segment after Jahy!Salwa did the same. We should all be so lucky to have such a kind and caring boss.

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