The fact that this was what counts as a breather episode tells you a lot about this season of The Dangers in My Heart. We had a huge new plot thread woven in, two very important characters were introduced, and there were myriad intense bonding moments with Kyou and Anna. In most romcoms this would be a season finale or at least an arc climax, but with BokuYaba it’s a sort of bridge. When you look at it from the angle that these are the years when change happens so fast for kids that it’s dizzying trying to keep up, it makes sense. But very few series manage to pull that off.
The initial focus here is on the increasing closeness between Yamada and Ichi. They’re still not acknowledging it in words – to each other – but more and more, they’re acting like a couple. But it’s a couple that’s still at that stage where everything couple-y they do has to be explained away (especially by Kyoutarou). When he wants to walk home with her every (non-cram school) day, he says it’s for the exercise. But she knows the truth. And when she wants to go on a movie date with her bae, it’s because she has free passes (the star works at the same agency) she has to use-or-lose. But he knows the truth.
Ichi is the master of self-deception, but it’s a coping mechanism for him. A loser like he is dating someone like Yamada just doesn’t fit the worldview he was so sure he’d figured out. But he knows – it’s a boy and a girl going to a movie together. He even admits it to himself. Kana (an increasing presence in the story, happily) certainly knows. They (well, she) decide to stop for takoyaki on the way to the theatre, and it happens to be the place where Kana is working (Kyou knew she was working at a takoyaki stand, but clearly not which one). Kana reminds him somewhat peevishly that no matter what happens to her from now on, she’ll never know the joy of an after-school date in her school uniform – which strongly implies she never did.
An element of envy in Kana’s view of her brother’s social progress is an interesting matter to consider, though to her credit she continues to be a rock of solid support. She lovingly chides him for looking cool (both his cardigan and his unbuttoned collar belong to Anna), and suffers the humiliation of being lectured by the trainee, but Kana is living vicariously through this relationship. On to the theater, where Anna buys a “Yamada-sized” popcorn and then orders Ichi to switch seats with her – so she can look into his exposed eye (and maybe so he can see her). Imagine being so in love that being able to see someone’s face is that important to you…
Of course it’s a love story, and with extended kissing scenes to boot, but that’s a date. Anna is truly the master of exploiting situations to her advantage – she’s insanely clever about such things. She spins a discussion of Kana’s workplace as a chance to invite Ichi to come see her work – a photo shoot on the following Saturday morning. To say this is a mixed blessing for Ichi is an understatement. He’s insatiably curious about her job, but intimidated at the prospect of actually seeing it (and not being able to disappear into the background as is his preference). But he doesn’t say no.
A small point, but Kyou waking Kana up to check his outfit is adorable and another example of just how close they are. Kyou’s fashion sense has already been established, but for a 14 year-old boy he’s extremely sharp in that way – he just refuses to accept that and needs Kana’s reinforcement. The shoot is at Ebisu Garden Place (conveniently close to Senzoku), and he stops to buy Yamada a sweet gift on the way (which he never works up the nerve to deliver). Just the sight of Akino Anna at work is too much for him – he bolts to a safe distance even after she catches sight of him and waves. But no distance is safe when Anna is on the hunt…
This cuts right to the heart of what haunts Kyou about this relationship – and it’s Lucifer Nigorikawa’s job to cut to the heart of things. “Child’s play” indeed – and of course Ichi is a child. So is Anna, but to him, her world is so much bigger that she seems very grown-up. And never more than when she’s working, being responsible, earning a living. But not only that – making herself happy, because being Akino is something Anna loves to do. It was where she landed after all her false starts, and the fact that Kyou could see how happy it made her is what made her happiest of all. This is a classic example of how when Ichi thinks too much he gets in trouble, but when he acts on instinct he nails it.
Then we have Suwa Yuki, Anna’s manager. This is one of those cases of perfect casting (like Lucifer) where it’s hard to imagine anyone but the seiyuu in question – in this case Saiga Mitsuki – in the role. When Suwa appeared in the manga there were initially questions about his gender (he’s a guy). Suwa takes an immediate interest in Ichi (who has drip, so it’s unsurprising), especially once he finds out this is the boy Anna has told him so much about. He immediately picks up on Kyou’s “massive inferiority complex” and describes himself as Anna’s guardian as much as her manager. He also reveals that she tells him everything, and that for her, Kyou is her “pride and joy, I’d say”.
But this encounter brings a rather uncomfortable issue to the surface. Anna is a public figure, and we all know how perverted Japan is when it comes to anyone (especially female) in the idol hemisphere. Ichi, whip-smart as he is, already knew this all too well – as witness his paranoia about riding double (the other reason for his walking home gambit). But it’s hard to be reminded of it by the man guiding Anna’s career. The other models are somewhat awed at being in the presence of a middle-school boy (“I want to revel in that youth!”), and then the big dog makes her appearance – Kouda Niko (Tsuchiya Rio). Niko is a true idol, a star – but she acts like a star-struck schoolgirl in Anna’s presence.
Kyou is, as ever, a contradictory mix of denial and keen self-awareness. “I hate how much of a child I am” is the essence of why this side of Anna, particularly, is so painful for him. But that too is a contradiction, as it’s part of why he loves her. For Anna, nothing means more than Ichi approving of what she does – so the idea that he snapped a photo of her and thinks she looks really pretty in it makes her happier than anything else. She seems to have everything, but Anna has just as many self-doubts as Kyou does – she just has a different way (bull in a china shop) way of dealing with them. What matters is that each holds the key to the other’s happiness – and if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.