Chuunibyou Ren finale, and a digression about my visit to Kyoto

You may remember that I was going sightseeing in Kyoto. And I did. I strongly recommend it. Just remember to wear comfortable shoes, because you’ll do a lot of walking. Highlights included Maruyama Park, the old-fashioned Higashiyama district next door to it, and the Fushimi Inari shrine. My calves are still complaining about that last one. The tower and the Manga Museum are both worth a look, and you could get lost in the train station itself. I did, more than once.

And naturally, I had to stop here:

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Six stops, I believe down the JR Nara line, at Kohata station, right across the street. I took a few photos of the building and proceeded to the nearby store, where they were promoting the Tamako Love Story movie and the next season of Free!. In fact, looking at the items in that tiny store gave you some idea of how the revenue is shaping up for them. There was still plenty of K-ON! merchandise to be found, trinkets, posters, art books, etc.. Still a good deal of Haruhi stuff, too. Even a couple pictures from Air and Kanon. But I was looking for Hyouka merchandise, preferably an art book, but all they had were a few postcard books and the like, probably the last of the stock (though I did score Chitandra and Ibara USB sticks). There was almost nothing from Nichijou at all …

All the while I was wondering what amazing work was being done at that moment on the two floors upstairs and back at the main office. Oh, that’s right: Tamako Love story and Free!.

So they just wrapped up a sequel, are about to release a sequel film and then air another sequel. Well, they do have something coming up farther down, but there’s no doubt that Kyoto Animation is in a holding pattern right now. For the past year, they have brought out well-crafted, clever works that display their trademark smart direction and top-of-the-line animation, and they’ve all been forgettable. I know Kyoani is not a company that takes risks, but they’ve brought out work that has surprised people before. The first season of Chuunibyou was the last really fresh work they did. Which leads me to the finale of season two.

They were going to kiss, but ...
They were going to kiss, but …

There was no reason for Chuunibyou Ren. In the final episode, what happens? We expected Yuuta and Rikka to kiss, you know, on the lips, if only to get the other girls to shut up. There was more of this nonsense talk about the dark flame dragon being loosed. And what happens? Nothing. And that’s fine with them. I don’t mind these two shy adolescents not rushing in their relationship, but they covered this same ground earlier in the series. I feel almost insulted. If you’re going to have a sequel, have some kind of story! And don’t set up a good story arc and cop out of it by having all the characters act reasonably! Satone looked like a legitimate threat to the relationship at first, but in the end she was just too damn nice to interfere. So the show had nothing but sideshows like the Dekomori/Fake Mori Summer feud. But they had no idea what to do with Kumin, and Isshiki became so irrelevant that his running gag was that no one recognized him. Afraid to take the possible stories further, like Yuuta and Rikka are afraid to even kiss, the show ran out of steam long before the season did.

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Well, I’ll probably watch whatever Kyoani puts out, because I admire their productions, and I’ll root for Amagi Brilliant Park whenever it comes out.

Kill 23, Nobunagun, Yakuindomo, and Chuunibyou Ren 11

Kill la Kill 23 is a big epside with lots of dramatic moments, fighting, and shouting, all to get us ready for the big finale next week. Good thing, too.

I'm beginning to feel that way too.
I’m beginning to feel that way too.

Frankly, it’s beginning to wear thin. When you have a show as over-the-top and intense as this one, you run the danger of bludgeoning the viewer into indifference. Happily for us, the show knows it too. It has leavened the intensity with just enough quiet moments and comedy to extend and heighten the big dramatic scenes. Oh, and the surprise twists. Mustn’t forget those. But that’s all right. They timed it almost perfectly. And while we have more bonding moments, still more level-ups for the costumes (didn’t we do this last week?), it’s all in anticipation of a final battle next week, with everyone wearing their final battle outfits, in the final episode. Unless Trigger fools us and makes a post-finale battle, outfit, or even episode. I could see them doing that.

smackdown #46702 for the series.
smackdown #46702 for the series.

As for the events, well, nothing much we haven’t seen before. Well, we hadn’t seen Ryuuko cut in half, but that was a ruse in order to distract Ragyo (I think the show’s writers were giggling furiously while writing that scene). We’ve seen the four devas in new suits before. Mako does her best to hold the fort until they show up. It was nice to see that tableau of everyone on the ship, not only the main characters, but all the little people as well (which reminds me that I felt the same way watching the freed suit-wearers on that hamster wheel). Two questions, apart from how they’ll win, remain. Didn’t they win already by killing the main life fiber? And, is Satsuki going to do any sort of penance for the years of abusing people she did?

Sio, doing what she does best.  Shootin' and grinnin'.
Sio, doing what she does best. Shootin’ and grinnin’.

I’ve said before that Nobunagun is always better when Sio is grinning, and she grins a lot in episode 11. And why not? As the episode goes on all we see is her plan succeeding. Newton messes with the gravity, Gandhi and whatshername cut off the rear, and some others, notably Jack, meet them head on in a Gaudi-created dome of death! Hell, apart from Capa and Newton, everyone’s smiling this episode. Meanwhile, Sio is blazing away from the ship at that thing they insist on calling a battleship. Yeah, she’s grinning every step of the way, except when she’s fanboying over tanks and their drivers. Then she uses some hovering thing so she can blast at the thing from close range. It’s only here that things go slightly wrong, like another battleship or something, with tentacles that threatened to turn this into a porn movie for a minute. Judging from the previews, however, it’s a minor setback.

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In Seitokai Yakuindomo 11, Shino and Takatoshi walk by a lake, then after this week’s proclamation, we learn that it’s Autumn and getting colder. The SC decides to remind the student body of certain rules by using the newspaper, then turn to other things, but someone is leaking their information, so Suzu suggests they use a code. You can imagine the jokes, can’t you? It doesn’t work anyway, more info is leaked, though it’s wrong and embarrassing. After that Takatoshi learns the pond has a turtle, then Uomi invites them to her school’s festival, where they attend a cooking class and watch some acts. Time passes, and it’s snowing! They have to shovel the school entranceway. I didn’t know you could make so many dirty jokes about snow. After that comes winter break and a surprise stew party, where the mystery ingredients are, happily, not obscene, except for the sausage. Then Shino plays secret santa. Weird to have a xmas bit when it’s really March. Oh, and Suzu is short the entire time.

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With Chuunibyou Ren 11, the closest thing I can figure is that the “Dark Flame Dragon” was Satone’s battle with the image of Yuuta as a boyfriend, a false image that must be destroyed so that she can face the reality of the situation, that Yuuta’s got a girlfriend and she’s got to let go. That would help to explain Yuuta’s line about the dragon not existing, so we can’t see it, etc. To that end, Satone gets to see Yuuta constantly worrying about and chasing after Rikka to ensure she doesn’t get into trouble, for two episodes now, every time she turns to him, really. It feels unrealistic. Feelings don’t just go away over a summer break. Kumin’s “give her time” line was the most sensible advice. Meanwhile, through finding all those tokens, Rikka gets the confirmation of Yuuta’s affections that she needed, given in terms her dark fantasy-addled mind can understand. And in the meantime this sequel series still doesn’t have much to show for itself. But we’ve been saying that for a while now.

Asukara 23, Chuunibyou Ren and Yakuindomo * 10

Sorry, busy with work so I’m falling behind.

I think I like Manaka better this way.
I think I like Manaka better this way.

Nagi no Asukara 23 spends most of its time not trying to figure out how to get Manaka’s ability to love back, but instead whether she’s better off without it. On the pessimistic side are Chisaki and Kaname, with Hikari and Sayu doing the yelling for the other side. It’s an interesting question. Manaka looks happy enough these days even though she can’t love. On the other hand, she hasn’t been told this, and I wonder if keeping this secret from her is a bigger moral and philosophical question than the actual problem. Meanwhile Manaka goes cheerfully on, getting an answer from that sea slug from so long ago I myself forgot what she asked for, and perhaps wondering why people act the way they do around her, like burst into tears.

Tsumugu's turn to get ena'd.
Tsumugu’s turn to get ena’d.

In other, more annoying news, Hikari goes around insisting to everyone who seems interested that he’s NOT in love with Manaka, or that he is but it’s not going to happen. Everyone else thinks “bullshit,” but that doesn’t faze him, until he learns that Tsumugu is in love with Chisaki. Hikari is shocked. So is Chisaki, as she appears just at the moment he says it to Hikari to get him to shut up, one of the show’s weaker plot moments. Oh, after that, he develops ena, so now we have to put that information into our jigsaw puzzle of emotions and legends that this series has become.

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At least with Chuunibyou Ren you have an idea what each character is thinking and who likes whom. Plus, the supernatural elements are rightfully products of each character’s imagination rather both being real and being metaphors and plot devices. So this show can take more time to have fun. And they better, since they stretched out Satone’s revived feelings for Yuuta to last the entire episode. By now everyone in the show save Yuuta is aware of how she feels and spend most of the episode dancing around her as she struggles to banish Yuuta from her thoughts. The series high production standards keep it from getting too tedious, but a few more episodes like this and, well, I’ll still be watching, though with gritted teeth like I watch much of Asukara nowadays. At least they didn’t simplify Satone’s feelings, though. Banishing the one you love from your thoughts isn’t as easy as Satone thinks.

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Seitokai Yakuindomo * 10 starts with Ecology Month, so after visiting a farmers market the SC goes into the mountains to look for edible plants. Mushroom jokes. Suzu has a cute bell. More mushroom jokes. It rains but they get to a cabin. Bath scene, followed by a delicious dinner. But the cabin only has two bedrooms. Oddly enough, they don’t make more of this situation than they should. After that it’s back to school, where Takatoshi thinks about getting more exercise. Did you know that the SC has a lost and found? The joke isn’t even dirty! It’s boring in the SC offices, then it’s busy as they prepare for the Halloween Festival. Rain threatens but does not cancel the cosplay event. Everyone has a good time. I’ll add that the mountain scenes had some lovely background art.

Kill 21, Asukara 22, Chuunibyou Ren 9

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Kill la Kill 21 kept up the intensity it built over the last few episodes, but it felt like it was spinning its wheels. It was all about how to snap Ryuuko back to normal, or get that godrobe off her, and you knew that if it did happen this episode it would happen at the end. The episode tried to get everyone involved, but most of the time they were standing by or dealing with the Nui distraction. Plenty of battling, but not much action.

So is every regular character in this show going to wear Senketsu at least once?
So is every regular character in this show going to wear Senketsu at least once?

Still, it was mostly fun to watch. You’d figure that Satsuki and Senketsu wouldn’t have the bond to defeat Ryuuko (though I think I said the opposite last week). So it turns out the four devas had another plan. Then Nui shows up, so they had her to contend with. Meanwhile I payed attention for anything that would suggest a change in the situation, like Satsuki’s comment to Nui about how she hasn’t abandoned her scissor half, or Mako’s latest alleluia speech. Mako, inadvertently wearing Senketsu(!), entering Ryuuko’s mind finally worked, but not before we had a false Mako death (I really wasn’t worried about that, since it was a dream sequence of sorts, but the the blood spurting out did give me pause) and a moment of despair before Ryuuko did her surprising turnaround, which, by the way, wasn’t explained well enough for me. She “kills” Mako at that fantasy altar, the wakes up and stabs Nui. Huh? … Never mind. It wasn’t as effective as previous episodes, but still entertaining.

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Nagi no Asukara 22 continues to irritate me, with these angry, indecisive or useless characters. This week Hikari discovers that Manaka has seemingly lost some memories since returning from the Ojoshi-sama graveyard. Of course, they’re memories connected to his possible relationship with her, so he’s upset about it. This is about the only interesting thing we get in the first half. The rest of it is spent with people standing around, looking sad over innocent comments someone else has said. In the second half Hikari and Miuna (trying to figure out why he’s in such a huff) stumble upon a shrine, and there’s Uroko-sama, whom Hikari’s been looking for. He instantly gets creepy around Miuna and then lays a long, confusing infodump concerning a tale that seems to be repeating now, showing us that, as usual, gods are selfish, vindictive, narcissistic types who don’t deserve the worship people give them. So basically the sea god decided to take away Manaka’s ability to love someone because she wanted to return to the surface. So there! Neener! Not only that, this climate disaster is only going to get worse for everybody. That’ll show ’em! Punish all those innocent people because one middle-schooler regrets something! Not that any of that matters to the human characters in this show, apart from Tsumugu; they’re too busy trying to figure themselves out or messing up their love lives. Man, if this show wasn’t so damn close to its end I’d drop it like a stone.

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Not sure what’s going on with Chuunibyou Ren 9. Everything happens at a beach where they’re working at the behest of Kumin’s aunt, so it’s a beach/swimsuit episode. But the central story is that of Rikka losing her powers, which seems to mean she’s beginning to lose interest in her tyrant’s eye delusions, to which I say: good. But Satone, who seems to know exactly what Rikka’s thinking, gives her an ultimatum of sorts: sacrifice the delusions for the sake of her boyfriend, or embrace them like she did, though it’s becoming obvious that she now regrets her decision. There’s also a token involved. All this will be developed later on, I guess, but I don’t see that it’ll be very interesting–everyone on this show’s too nice to let anybody get too hurt. Also Touka shows up out of nowhere (EVERYONE’S in this beach episode, even the cat), with both her ladle and a small girl named Cento, who buys into all this 8th grade syndrome nonsense and has a great time. Touka is both relieved and disappointed that the romance involving her sister is hardly moving forward. As for me, I’m getting annoyed. Like I said, I don’t Satone can pose a serious threat, but then what will the show do for the next few episodes?

Kill 20, Asukara 21, Chuunibyou Ren 8

After watching Kill la Kill 20, I give up on trying to predict what the show will do next.

I NEVER expected to see this.
I NEVER expected to see this.

It’s too much to say that they turned everything 180 and now we have to root for the villain to defeat the hero. Ryuuko’s simply brainwashed and needs someone to talk or knock some sense into her. But if we had seen the screenshot above a dozen episodes ago we wouldn’t have believed it, or we’d have invented some other story line. But now I’m already breaking my vow. Maybe Ryuuko won’t get her senses back during this fight. Maybe she’ll win, and that ship will sink with everyone on it, and someone else will have to betray Ragyo, maybe Nui. … Nah.

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Besides, thinking about it, I don’t know if she CAN win. True, even without Junketsu, Ryuuko was able to slice building up, but she’s not herself. A couple of episodes ago she was able to tear life fibers out of her brain! This episode, she gave up pretty easily. Also, I remember Satsuki having difficulties controlling Junketsu, and though it didn’t matter at the time, I suspect now that they inserted those bits as foreshadowing. On the other hand, if Ryuuko is a life-fiber monster she shouldn’t have such a hard time. On the other other hand, Satsuki is wearing Senketsu with the clothing’s permission. While she had struggled to dominate Junketsu, she asked Senketsu for his help. They’ll do their best to cooperate.

Seriously, who could possibly have imagined?
Seriously, who could possibly have imagined this?

So place your bets, if you dare. What will happen next week? Will Satsuki get through to Ryuuko? Will Senketsu? Maybe Senketsu will get through to Junketsu instead! Will Mako succeed where she failed this week? Will the four Devas be able to assist? Will Nudist beach manage to do anything useful at all? Don’t ask me. I just don’t know anymore.

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For Nagi no Asukara, I suppose it’s not fair to complain because the story arc might give a little hiccup and move forward once an episode, because at this point I can’t figure out what the actual story is. As for the characters, they can’t take care of the mysteries of this cooling period, or waking up the people underwater, because they don’t know enough. Besides, they’re all trying to get their personal lives sorted out. On that side, Manaka’s awake and delighted by … well, I was going to say everything, but she seems fixated on the salt-snow at the moment. Everyone’s happy that she’s happy, except Miuna, who thinks she might be happy about it but feels guilty because maybe she doesn’t. At any rate, she’s been shoved aside in the Hikari sweepstakes. The others go on the way they always do, especially Chisaki, who, Manaka implies, hasn’t changed at all. I can’t remember now, but does she WANT to change? And so another episode slides smoothly past, until the surprise fish at the end, suggesting that asshole god is around, hopefully to speed up the plot.

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Since the important story of Chuunibyou was taken care of in the first season, a lot of us worried or wondered if Ren would have a backbone strong enough to hold up new stories, and while watching the Yuuta/Rikka romance slowly blossom has been cute, the new season has been less compelling to watch. But episode 8 manages to find something interesting. A fake Mori Summer appears and has bamboozled Sanae away from Shinka. My first reaction was “So what’s the problem?” and indeed, Shinka was, at first, relieved. I liked this reaction. She had tried to put Mori Summer behind her, and this reaction showed that she had succeeded.

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But this would ignore the fake Mori and her interest in Sanae. She comes off as creepy in her first scene, and when we (and Shinka, Yuuta, et al.) get in our heads that she’s interested in more than Sanae’s pure spirit, or purity for that matter, the episode becomes less comic. After all, she’s a deluded, love-struck stalker. But it manages to remain light, since in order to battle her Shinka must remember Mori Summer stuff she’d rather forget. The big imaginative battle at the end stretched my incredulity somewhat, I mean, with the others cheering her on, it’s almost as if that big light show was actually happening, but the show hits just the right note when Shinka gives her big speech at the end, with that heavenly music playing. It’s one of the best moments of the season, and it made Sanae come somewhat to her senses. I do feel a little sorry for the fake Mori Summer, however, while at the same time I worry that she won’t let go and Sanae will have a stalker to deal with. Nah, not that kind of show.

Kill 19, Asukara 29, Chuunibyou Ren 7

I don’t really know what to think about Kill la Kill 19.

Well, mostly.
Well, mostly.

I didn’t expect a huge episode full of fights and revelations after that craziness last week, and I didn’t get one. Not to say it was sedate. Instead, the episode concentrated on getting us caught up with what happened to everyone AFTER last week, since they jumped ahead five months, with moments of characteristic action bubbling to the surface. But it felt off, like there was now a distance between me and the characters and events. Maybe it was that the circumstances had changed so much. Revocs has pretty much won. Nudist Beach, with the Four Devas helping, can do little more than rescue some people and fiddle with new weapons. Satsuki is hanging from her arms in a cage. Ryuuko won’t wake up. Or maybe it was the “all is lost” feeling about the whole thing.

There.  It's official.
There. It’s official.

About the only things that I managed to get excited over was the Mako / Gamagoori Ship Watch, which took another couple steps forward after Mako gets sucked into a Cover and is later rescued by him, and some of the signs of life the others show near the end, such as Satsuki’s toenail, and Ryuuko waking up. Of course, the Ryuuko we have now is bitter and nihilistic about her own existence now, a “life fiber monster,” as she describes herself. But, hell, she’s awake, and more capable of doing damage than anyone else on the good guys’ side. But what were those harp things supposed to be? That’s where the show took a further step away from me. And why is Ragyo going on now about rage, and is Ryuuko’s rage what she’s talking about? Okay, plenty of stuff to enjoy and think about this week, but it didn’t have the impact it should.

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Meanwhile, Nagi no Asukara is still making it hard to care about anything at all. Plot-wise, Manaka is still unconscious, and they take the whole episode trying to figure out ways to wake her up, and when she does at the end, saying the most profound thing I can remember her saying (“Ue?”), it’s not clear whether any of the things they tried worked or not. Let’s see, she woke up when Miuna and Hikari were arguing about whether to wake her up with a kiss … maybe there’s a connection there, maybe not. Well, it’s better than kissing her and having her wake up. The show’s not stupid like that, just slow and pointless at times. Elsewhere we spend time with Miuna, who’s afraid that she actually doesn’t want Manaka to wake up because of something she blurted out earlier in the episode. This is silly, but she’s in middle school and can be forgiven beliefs like that. And there’s the question of why Miuna now has ena and Manaka doesn’t–is it a passing of the torch between the two? Are they suggesting that Miuna is the one Hikari should wind up with? But considering that I don’t really like both Manaka and Hikari, I can’t find the energy to care. Sad to say that this has become the dull, downer show I watch after Kill la Kill …

But then they get sensible.
But then they get sensible.

I guess Chuunibyou Ren is somewhere in between. Here, the little romance takes a step forward after nearly falling apart, thanks to Satone crashing Yuuta and Rikka’s school-trip date. What’s surprising here is how Rikka behaves. She is rightly upset that Yuuta tries to help out Satone, watching the two of them perform some nearly flawless magic on a monkey, and running off afterwards, but once she settles down she also shows more sense than I expected. It wasn’t their fault the monkey chased them and made them fall off that ledge, hell, just helping Satone out was the decent thing to do. And later, when Satone calls her out, they have a sensible chat. In spite of their degrees of delusions, they know enough now to drop the childishness when it’s important. But the biggest shock comes at the end, with the “I love you.” There was no beating about the bush, no lapse into Tyant’s Eye speech, no steam coming out of Rikka’s collar, no hesitation at all. If anything, she sounded playful, maybe enjoying the surprise on her boy’s face. A lovely moment. If this second season is simply going to be about the two of them getting closer, this episode was a good way to do it.

Asukara 19, Chuunibyou Ren and Nisekoi 6

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In Nagi no Asukara 19, I thought maybe they’d get through the entire episode without using the “change” metaphor, but unfortunately it came back later on. Still, they spend most of the episode playing with variations; “suspended” for one. Tsumugu and Chisake both talk about how their lives and relationships have been so since the others have gone. Now that the characters are trickling back (though Manaka hasn’t woken up yet) there’s talk about getting on with their lives, though, like most people who have muttered this, they have no idea where they’ll get on to. It will have its own problems, just like being suspended does. Meanwhile, Chisake can’t figure out whether she’s changing or not, and since she has a pretty dull personality we don’t have an answer, either. But she realizes she still has a thing for Hikari, in spite of the act that she’s college-age and he’s still a middle-schooler, and it won’t be requited. Meanwhile Kanade grumbles, mostly inwardly, about how Chisake is out of his reach now. So she HAS changed. Or not. I wish the characters in this show would make up their minds. One amusing take on this whole tired business. Chisake suggests that this taking away ena business shows that the sea god hasn’t grown up in thousands of years. Still a selfish brat. Like most gods, I’m afraid.

Fun on the school trip.
Fun during the school trip.

Chuunibyou Ren 6 takes our young lovers on their school trip. I didn’t recognize any of that. Where exactly did they go? There were European style gardens and historical Japanese outdoor museum things, but I don’t know where it is, and the episode decided not to tell us, or I just didn’t catch it. Anyway, we have your typical school trip business, meaning some boys try to peek at the girls baths, some ghost stories, and … well, that was it, at least for the boys. They’re not the most intrepid bunch I’ve ever seen in an anime. So, apart from Rikka adding their surroundings into her warped imagination, it’s hardly a school trip episode at all. Mostly they focus on the fact that everyone knows Yuuta and Rikka are dating and keep pressuring them for details, which they don’t have because they haven’t gone that far. So they’re embarrassed and unhappy. It’s taken care of in a sweet little scene or two where Rikka not only shows the gumption that makes a school trip episode worth watching, but actually takes a little initiative in their romance, too. And those night goggles ARE cool. So, some steps forward for Rikka.

They ALWAYS say that.
They ALWAYS say that.

Nisekoi 6 trundles out more of the usual romcom material, this week it’s an attempt to confess by Onodera, and she nearly does, too, except that the gods of high school comedy had to lob a baseball in the window at just the wrong time. Earlier, there was a typical miscommunication scene between our hatebirds involving yesterday’s rescue and CPR kiss, with people listening in, naturally. These people listening in were more interesting than Raku and Chitoge were; in one take Shuu joined in and then vanished for no reason, and in another Ruri just gives up and starts reading. And so the show dithered around with little purpose, even though Onodera and Ruri are now both in on the secret. It’s only at the end, where we learn that Chitoge has a childhood memory of her own, and Claude hires a hit-boy, that the situation changes. The latter will probably lead to a lot of assassination attempts leading to comical near-misses, but it will be a change. The former will certainly screw things up for everyone.