High Score Girl II

February 15, 2020

Just when you thought you finished a game and watched its ending, little did you know that when you played it again, another secret ending is revealed. And just when you thought that was the real ending, another true ending emerged! Uh huh. That is how I felt when High Score Girl II came out. Although the TV series didn’t really end or tied up the loose ends, I never expected it would come out another season. At least, not so soon right after those extra special episodes were aired. So it was a pleasant surprise to me because I get to relive all those nostalgic memories of the fighting video games even though mostly most of them I didn’t play at all. Ah yes. Street Fighter II, Virtua Fighter, Tekken, even my all-time favourite Mortal Kombat (though this one wasn’t really featured). Oh, what’s that you say? Some love triangle between the gamer kids happening? Oh right. That too.

Episode 16
A more elaborated flashback on Oono’s past. Gouda is chastising Makoto to act like the heir of the family but she doesn’t give a crap and doesn’t want to be stifled by the family’s policies. Hence, she dumped all the responsibilities on her little sister. Poor Oono. She undergoes all the rigorous studies and ‘cultured’ activities. Every day she is so tired and one day she just had it and ran away from home. She stumbled into the arcade and was amazed by everything. As Street Fighter 2 was just out, many didn’t like Zangief because of his impossible moves. Yeah, I think he had no projectile skill like the rest. Hence out of pity, Oono chose him. She amazed the crowd by beating the game! Now everyone can see Zangief’s ending! Next is Final Fight. Because everyone mocked Haggar’s clumsy abilities, again she picked this character out of pity and owned the game! Not until her butler finds her and brings her back. But this left Oono happier. Now she has games on her mind. Of course that fateful meeting when she first played against Haruo. He used some cheap move against her and won. She socked him in the face! Real street fight! Followed by a few snippets of scenes that Oono spent with Haruo in the last season. Now we see Haruo hanging out with Miyao. The latter suddenly asks his progress with Oono. Of course Haruo can’t answer and then asks him back on how to date girls?! Naturally this has Miyao embarrassed so he decides to go to his home and talk things out, man to man. They stop by the shop to get some snacks. Oh, this is the shop run by Hidaka’s family. She’s not in a good mood… And because Haruo makes some snickering comments, she slaps him! Damn, she’s hostile. She’s changed. To quell this, Miyao invites her to Haruo’s place since they’re going there. You bet she’s coming. Though, still with that pouting face. As they reach home, a vision of Guile tries to warn Haruo not to come home now but is ignored. Because it seems Oono and Makoto are also there! Hence as all the ‘main players’ are gathered in Haruo’s room, there is this very heavy tension. Very heavy indeed. Makoto close to panicking as she wonders if Haruo is a Playboy. Heck, Miyao is even more worried than Haruo! Does he not see the gravity of this situation?! Oh my, I fear one spark is all it takes to ignite… And then Hidaka has something to say… Stay tune next time if there will be casualties!

Episode 17
Miyao baulks first. He runs away crying like a baby! Can’t take the tension! When Makoto puts the equation together, she starts to overthink. Before she ends up frying her brains, she decides to escape and go mingle with Haruo’s mom. Not after smacking Haruo. So the thing Hidaka is asking… She wants to play a game with Oono. In the first round of Virtua Fighter 2, Oono masterfully beats Hidaka. Hidaka makes a comeback in the second and in the final set, Oono wins it. Haruo is only shocked that the girls have grown stronger. Gaming wise. I believe it is more than that… The girls leave and Hidaka hopes to have a rematch with Oono. Hope Makoto didn’t get the wrong idea. Oono then stomps on Haruo’s foot. Yup, women are mysteries that men must unravel. As Haruo hangs out at the arcade, he is being harassed by MF (Mother Fuc-, I mean, Mizunokuchi Force). Basically, Hidaka’s gamer guys supporters. They try to make him stay away from Hidaka and their morale boosted when Hidaka thinks the same. Haruo leaves and Hidaka regrets it. She realizes her character changes whenever she is with him. Yeah, she wants to punch and kick him! Oh sh*t! Say it isn’t violent fighting games that turned her into a sadist! Hence Haruo hangs in a seemingly bad part of Shibuya. Seeing a few guys play Kaiser Knuckle in which the final general boss is just too tough to play, the arcade punks think he is looking down on them and force him to play and win it. Haruo remembers Oono losing by a narrow margin so he employs her tactic and it pays off. They get to see the true ending. The guys are amazed and want Haruo to join their team, Shibuya Squad. It seems MF is trying to take over their area so they are organizing a team to fight back. Haruo has settled in Shibuya that he looks like he is part of the hoodlum? Miyao and Doi try to get him back but he is giving excuses that Oono doesn’t come to the arcades lately. Suddenly Doi gets mugged by a few ganguro gals. The friends try to fight back but they got owned! Useless! Oh, Numata is here to settle! Old guy also gets owned! Useless! Oh, Touno’s up next. She must be some master because she defeats the gals with invisible moves?! The guys go free after the teachers lecture them about their responsibilities as a student. As Shibuya Squad figures what games to play for the fight back, Nikotama tells Hidaka that Shibuya Squad’s first player is Haruo.

Episode 18
Makoto slaps Haruo for falling this low. She claims Oono has been going to arcades since Gouda has been relaxing the rules. Could it be that they just missed each other? Learning that Oono has been practising SF Alpha 2 a lot, Haruo worries he might be falling behind her. His Shibuya buddies are here to pick him up but Makoto goes to karaoke with them followed by shopping! The destined match between MF and Shibuya Force is here. Because Mayu clings too close and gets flirty with Haruo, this makes Hidaka mad as she wants to be the first player. And hence she bulldozes her way through all the Shibuya players! It’s not that her skills have increased. It’s just that she’s gotten angrier! Haruo is the final player and Shibuya Force’s last salvation. Can he redeem it? Because Mayu keeps flirting with him, Hidaka’s anger peaks. She beats him! 10 consecutive victories! MF wins! Hidaka even warns Mayu to stay away from her boyfriend! Later Hidaka and Haruo hang outside. Hidaka feeling sorry for what she said the last time. Haruo doesn’t want to hold that old grudge. So does this mean they can date now?! Okay, just downgrade it to hanging out. Meanwhile the others are probably reeling from the shock that Hidaka and Haruo are an item. Mayu is cursing she really wanted to take Haruo’s virginity! Oh, Oono is there too. You can tell she isn’t pleased by her frown. And she shows it when she beats Kaiser Knuckle with a less fashionable character! Not wanting this night to end, Hidaka has Haruo take her out to eat. This weird moment of Hidaka flirting with him and her body language speaks the part. Yeah, he’s trying to talk about games but she won’t let him. Heck she even admits that she is a pervert and it’s pretty normal kids their age think of something like that. Then she says she’s tired. She wants to sleep. Let’s find a room where a man and woman can sleep together. Gulp. I don’t think this is part of the game… Not sure what happened because the next morning as they’re walking together, it’s another one of those Hidaka mood swings. Suddenly she hugs him, crying and saying conflicting stuffs. I love you. I hate you. WTF. Can’t blame Haruo for being confused. She wants him to hold her tightly. You’re probably why she’s pulling this charade in broad day light and public and most probably it’s to assert her authority and claim. Because don’t look now, Oono is right before them!!! OH SH*T!!!! GAME OVER???!!!

Episode 19
Because Haruo lets go, I guess this means Hidaka lost? She runs away in tears but Oono won’t let her. Then they all take a train home. Weird… With the start of the new school year, Miyao and Doi are getting jealous at Haruo for taking the next step to adulthood. Miyao isn’t wrong that he is advising Haruo to decide because staying on the fence will just end up in a painful situation. Does Haruo understand all that?! When Haruo returns home, he is hounded by his mom and Makoto for trying to two-time the girls. He explains that nothing happened during the night since the trains stopped so they had to rest somewhere. Makoto then lets him know that Oono was looking for him all over Shibuya and slept at a manga café. The ladies continue to torment him, even admitting they only pretend to care just to tease him more! Time for Haruo to leave. Suddenly he is kidnapped by MIBs! He is brought to Oono’s room. Is this a conspiracy? Are they going to talk? Nah, going to feel more like Haruo talking to himself… First she trolls him that he is here to be punished by Gouda. She is actually on leave today and this is all part of Oono’s elaborate plan to spend some time playing video games with him. Yeah, even his mom gave consent for him to stay. This means Makoto is at his place listening to mom’s ‘romantic’ tales of her first husband… Damn, she’s going to be traumatized by the way mom screams at night!!! WTF she’s chanting in her sleep!? WTF video game characters popping up and fighting each other?! This is one hell hole! Meanwhile Haruo and Oono play all the Final Fight series. This gives Haruo to chance to apologize for that Shibuya incident. Next morning, Haruo returns home. You bet mom and Makoto want to know the details what happened. Nothing happened. Boring! When they learn that Oono already left the house before Haruo, it could only mean 1 thing: Yup, to settle the score with Hidaka. After all, Hidaka upped on him that night so this is Oono’s way to even the score. Now it’s the decisive match! Yeah, mom and Makoto really love teasing Haruo that they feel pity for the winner of this fight. Haruo not even consolation prize worthy!!! OMG. You ladies just killed him. Hidaka is being sceptical Oono called her out just to hang out at the arcade. Realizing this is related to Haruo, this could be the competition that makes things clear once and for all. In that case, she accepts her challenge.

Episode 20
Hidaka needs to find a game that will beat Oono. Suddenly a vision of Akuma pops up. Seeing her determination, he is willing to lend his power. You bet she’s going to get all that she needs. Narrating that her love for Haruo is the reason why she wants to win and unless she beats Oono, that wish won’t be granted. The girls play Street Fighter II: Grand Master Challenge. Hidaka fails to select Akuma and got Ryu instead. Then she notices Oono also gunning for Akuma. If she chooses him, she’ll be screwed! Fortunately, Oono also messes up! The girls agree not to make this round count. In the next round, Hidaka successfully chooses Akuma. To her surprise, Oono goes for Zangief. The odds are stacked against that Russian character. Hidaka becomes the demon as she pulls off the cheap hadouken move to slowly chip away her life. She wins the first round. By the second round, she does the same thing but keeps wondering why Oono continues to do the same futile stuffs. This leads to her overthinking about what it means to be a true gamer. And then stupid Haruo’s face pops up. Something about not wanting to lose to those who don’t want to lose. This distraction proves fatal as Oono manages to close in and deliver the finishing moves. In the final round, Hidaka starts to panic when her cheap moves don’t work anymore and Oono is literally doing impossible moves to fight her. Hidaka realizes her amazingness is why Haruo probably likes her. In that case, what does this make of her cheap love? Oh well, the results of this match… Probably they’ll tell us the next time! Miyao is talking to Haruo about love propelling forward. Probably this guy is thinking too much because Haruo is studying to get his motorbike licence so as to cover long distances easier. That means he can’t spend on video games and has to save up on the licence. I don’t think playing a motorbike racing game is supposed to give him the right mental training… Only if Haruo can stop thinking video game terms when he is riding for real. The real reason he is trying to get a licence because Makoto told him he should also try to do something other than video games. Because Oono can do almost everything and they’re like rivals, if that gap widens, he might feel inferior again. Eventually Haruo gets his licence. You wonder where he got the money to buy a bike. Actually, Makoto gave hers to him. He rides to Oono’s place to brag. He feels bad since there were some truths in what Miyao said about this. Haruo tells Oono that if she ever needs him, just give a call and he can come in a flash. You’d think she’d be happy but wait. Why is she looking sad and backing away?

Episode 21
Haruo realizes he has been slacking. Imagine a few months of non-practice and his skills deteriorate this bad? Of course the actual reason is Oono on his mind and that painful expression she made. So when he relays his problems to Miyao, that guy is in shock. I mean, this guy never thought Haruo would be in this state after admitting he was scared to realize his true feelings all this time. Could it be for real this time? You bet, because Haruo confesses he does like Oono! Hence the ‘committee’ of Miyao, Doi, Makoto and Haruo’s mom all congregating in his room just to discuss about this. Now that it has come to this stage, Haruo must do something and not just let things be. Heck, even Guile is telling him to commit to this love! As he is a noob in love and not sure what to do, he even admits his own cowardice, having the rest to really think he is seriously in love. It could be that before he becomes romantically involved with her, he must first beat her as a rival. Yup, back to video games. After all, that is the only deep bond they share that no one else can interfere. Surprisingly, Doi suggests a tournament to settle it. If Haruo wins this Super Street Fighter II national tournament, he will confess his love. However it is at Osaka. Yes, that place brought back memories when Haruo beat Oono in the finals but it was only because her controller was damaged. It will be different this time. With Haruo determined to do this, Makoto returns to tell this good news. She hopes her little sister can accept Haruo’s seriousness. But something still bugs Oono… She’s not happy… So we see her having lots of thoughts. Basically, Zangief and other video game characters advising her as this could be her final memories with Haruo! When they let Gouda know about this, she finds it preposterous for a boy and girl to go on a long distance trip. But it seems on that day she will return to her hometown… I guess that’s the signal that Oono is free to go with Haruo! And so Oono leaves with Haruo on a train to Osaka. When her butler returns, Makoto is crying. She just found out that Oono will be leaving for Los Angeles at the end of this month! Apparently Oono and her butler knew about this decision that their parents made quite a while. Hey Makoto, you were the one pushing all this on your little sister, so you’re starting to regret it all now? The butler believes Oono placed her parents’ feelings and the household state to be important. Hence, knowing about Haruo’s case, this tournament if she wins, she’ll cut ties with him.

Episode 22
Flashback shows already back in April, Gouda told Oono that her parents has arranged for her to stay with them at Los Angeles. This means she will attend a new high school, college and even an arranged fiancé. From an instructor’s point of view, she has no objections. But personally, she is sad. Arriving in Osaka a day earlier, the duo explore the city. They only recognize landmarks that appeared in the video games they played. They also played various fighting games at different arcades. Seems Oono hasn’t lost the touch and Haruo continues to lose to her! But this time it is different. He doesn’t feel hate or disgust each time she wins. Wow. Has he matured? However, too many losses has him thinking this might be bad for his morale at tomorrow’s tournament. Hence he doesn’t want to play fighting games anymore and instead they go play some co-op game. Their streak is cut short when some morale police come in to look for kids overstaying their curfew. Now kids at arcades after 10pm, huh? Haruo takes Oono’s hand as they escape. The night is still young but they retire to their rooms. Haruo is bored to death since his TV isn’t working and he didn’t bring his handheld. So he is left contemplating about tomorrow as well as about Oono. Don’t mind if Guile comes in to talk with you too. And it turns into something about wanting Haruo to go barge into Oono’s room because she is waiting for him! But a loud crash is heard from her room. He goes to check it out. The mirror is broken. Could her room be haunted? There’s a talisman behind the mirror too, you know. He cleans it up and thinks she should go back to sleep since the tournament is tomorrow. Apparently not the answer she’s looking for so she beats him up. Now it is awkward as both of them are in his room. Oh Haruo, you mean you prefer to run away and sleep in the haunted room than with her???!!! WTF???!!! Of course Oono won’t let him. Those begging puppy dog eyes… He starts to think about things and eventually they sleep in the same bed. He can’t sleep. Well, because Oono keeps staring at him. Something might happen tonight…

Episode 23
It’s creepy that Oono keeps looking at him. He tries to ignore and sleep but she keeps jabbing and tickling him! WTF?! She also bites him?! I don’t think it’s considered love bite… Woah! Not a dream when they hold hands and Haruo claims she looks cute! And then more biting… Oh Oono, you shy girl? Tournament day is here. Haruo hardly has any sleep and blames Oono who dozed off herself. But he can’t lose now. The players are divided into several blocks for the preliminaries. The winner of each block will advance to the finals. We see Haruo stronger than ever as he blows away his opponents. His love for the woman he loves is on the line! Haruo wins his block and goes to see how Oono is doing. Eh? Oono lost in the first round???!!! WTF???!!! OONO, OH NO!!! We see Oono sitting outside as Zangief and co admonish her about her pitiful state. Can’t be that haunted room curse, right? After chiding her that this means her match with Hidaka was pointless, Oono gets renewed determination and strength. Meanwhile Haruo is feeling disappointed. All that he has done was for naught. Is there any point to continue this tournament? Oh yes there is. Because all the losers will play in a special block and the winner will join the block winners in the finals. And we see Oono breezing through all her opponents! This is the Oono we know! Welcome back! You scared now, Haruo? Oh, but he is so fired up. The finals begin, Haruo and Oono win their matches. This means they will meet in the semi-finals. A fist bump before their match begins. Haruo realizes this girl whom he once hated and unapproachable, now he is totally in love with her. He can’t lose this, right?! Whatever the chart says about the odds stacked against Zangief against Guile, Oono blows it all away like nothing. Hence she easily corners him and takes the first round. Time for Haruo to get real serious.

Episode 24
Haruo wins the second round due to a cheap unmanly move. But that’s okay. He is going to do what it takes to win. In the final round, both are neck to neck and their health bar is at danger point! So close! Who is going to get it?! And to Haruo’s dismay, Oono nabs the final point. Haruo is left devastated that for the next few weeks, he stayed away from video games thinking he failed in his mission. Obviously depressed. Although Oono went on to the finals, she lost. A sign that it wasn’t even an important match to her. However Haruo only realized too late about Oono’s feelings as well as her leaving the country. Makoto comes to cheer him up and tell him the date of Oono’s departure. She won’t say he won’t see her again but it will be very difficult. Before she leaves, she gives him Oono’s ring. This adds to his devastation as he thinks his 5 yearlong battle with her has ended. On the day she is leaving, Haruo is still uncertain. Even mom scolds him for not making a decision but sorry, he still can’t. As he walks, he stumbles into Hidaka. Another makeover? She cuts her hair short. She tells him about the duel she had with Oono and how the fight showed how serious Oono was about him. It also gave an impression that she was retiring from the battle but in the final round, she could feel Oono just couldn’t renounce her feelings for him and it was painful. Although Hidaka won the match, she lost the war.

She also heard about their Osaka trip because Oono came to personally ‘talk’ to her about it and hoped she would give ‘permission’ to have some last memories with him. When Hidaka learns he has received Oono’s ring, she slaps him for getting the wrong message. After all these years and he still doesn’t understand a woman’s feelings (that’s true! No men ever will!), this is actually a sign that she is waiting for him to return it to her. So what are you waiting for! Go now! Hence Haruo runs back to get his bike (mom got it all ready for him). Yeah, time to just cry to the wind. As Haruo speeds up, he narrates about his love for Oono while the video game characters pop up to stop traffic and give him a big push! WTF???!!! Is this hallucination! Oh, don’t f*cking tell me they also make his scooter fly up to the plane just to see Oono!!! Nope. He crashed his bike at the airport. But too late, Oono has left. But good news. Some turbulence caused the plane to turn back. Everyone alights the plane. Second chance! Haruo and Oono run and give each other the biggest and most emotional hug ever. This time Haruo vowing never to let her leave again and he’ll find her the next time. Somehow. Their battle hasn’t ended yet. He gives her the ring and confesses he loves her. Keep it. So that he will find and bring her back. She accepts and all the video game characters cheer in the background. Though Oono eventually leaves on her flight, Guile tells Haruo that this isn’t the end yet. He has just finished another stage and advanced to the next. Use this strength for this new battle and they’ll help him find the best ending.

Final Fight: Levelling Up The Game Of Love
Oh damn. What the f*ck is this bittersweet ending. Not again! Oono leaving Haruo for the second time! Damn I hate this. It feels like that damn Mario game whereby each time he defeats Bowser in his castle, only to find that this castle doesn’t house his kidnapped princess but that stupid Toad character telling him she is in another castle. Yup. Not the true ending, but definitely the best ending will be reached. Eventually. So stay tuned for the secret ultimate true ending: Young adult Haruo goes to America and looks for his gamer girl childhood sweetheart!

I was wondering why this season had a really odd number of episodes. I mean, only 9 of them. I’m sure they didn’t want to put in fillers and waste a few episodes going nowhere. Then I realized that this series actually runs for 2 cours. 12 from the first season + 3 extra episodes + 9 for this season = 24 episodes in total. Well, if you pay a little attention to the episode title which are just the episode numbers, you won’t go wrong.

I guess when you have the romance taking a serious direction, the video games become somewhat secondary. I mean, there are still some good ol’ retro fighting games for us to view but I feel it isn’t as prominent as before. Even more so when the next episode preview doesn’t introduce to us anymore retro arcade games and instead they show us some rotating 3D items. Like, WTF???!!! WHERE ARE MY ARCADE GAMES???!!! I WANT TO SEE SOME OLD ARCADE GAMES!!! Not some tasty snacks from the festival, a jar full of coins, and WTF is this onigiri eraser?! But it is not as bad and weird as this chocolate cake (or is it mud cake?) made in the head of some ugly girl. Man, that one was really weird. You could say it takes the cake in being the weirdest of all the featured items. This means the mid-intermission also leaves out introducing new and current games. What a bummer. I’m no there to see Haruo riding a scooter as the mid-intermission! GIVE ME MAH GAMES!!! Speaking of scooters, looks like they ditch the running joke of Haruo being hit by Oono’s butler’s car. Yeah, that is now a distant memory.

With this season ramping up the romance between our main characters, it feels that this is mostly Oono’s season. Remember, Hidaka already had her chance for Haruo in those extra episodes but she blew it. Even her comeback here to challenge Oono was just a side distraction and perhaps to make it clear that she isn’t as worthy as she thinks she is to be next to Haruo. That is why after Hidaka’s challenge to Oono and lost, you don’t hear much from her. Like as though she went missing. Casted aside as the final stretch tries to play out Haruo x Oono. Perhaps she was hiding in her family store and crying and regretting what should have been. Oops. I don’t think Hidaka is as weak of a girl but there may be a chance. After all, she lost the only guy she ever loved. No wonder that makes her mad. Uh huh. She wants to punch and kick him each time she sees him? Girl, I think that’s the fastest way to lose a guy. She needs some anger management. And then maybe some emotional management too.

Besides, Hidaka and Oono felt like they are being weird and creepy in trying to get Haruo’s attention. For instance, that short date between Haruo and Hidaka after that MF vs Shibuya Force fight, Hidaka was really acting and talking strangely. Her flirty body language sometimes shows that she might be desperate to secure him in and she’s trying to use her womanly charms (something that Oono questionably isn’t good at) to bait him. That hug before Oono might be the do or die moment. Oono was already a weird person not speaking a word but seeing her pulling small pranks on Haruo, it shows her weird and cheeky side. That time they slept together and she kept pinching, tickling and even biting him! Yikes! Is this what you call desperation move? Because of that, the more I stare at them, the creepier they look. Because now I can’t seem not to ignore Hidaka’s bushy blonde eyebrows. And also, Oono has that dead fish eyes. Yup, things are really getting weirder and weirder when you’re in love.

Just like last time, I was hoping that Oono would surprise us and say something. One short sentence or at least in the most minimal of cases, one single valid word. I was thinking this would be the ultimate plot twist and shocker that they will give us. Unless you’re like me who is kinda expecting and waiting for it. But as the episodes dwindle down, Oono remains the speechless retard and this has me really thinking that she has some sort of condition that makes her unable to properly talk. Hence, everybody else doing the talking for her or assuming her thoughts on her behalf. Everything would have been so much easier had she just put it in proper words but like Guile said, women are a mystery and mysteries that men must solved! Holy sh*t. I bet that is not part of his phrases in his video game appearances but whatever. I have this feeling that Guile and Zangief are the guardian angels of Haruo and Oono respectively. Damn, it’d be so cool that video game characters act like your guardian angels.

As for Haruo, realizing his feelings is one step closer in being a true man. It’s okay for him to keep loving video games as long as he lives but he also needs to be realistic. Using video games as an excuse to maintain status quo and be (naturally) ignorant at the concept of love, perhaps that is why things has got ‘complicated’ to this stage. This challenge to Oono comes a bit too late but it’s better than never. We have seen him changed a lot for the better. He doesn’t get mad now whenever Oono beats him and learns to lose graciously. I don’t know. Maybe all that losing streak makes him go crazy so he has learnt to accept he is a loser and hence no use getting mad. This is my extreme conspiracy theory. After all, he can’t punch a girl like how Oono has that special privilege to sock it in his face, right? And I keep thinking that Oono is so good in video games not because she has the talent to excel in other ‘cultured’ activities but sometimes she is so damn talented that you’d think she was the one who created the video game, programmed its characters and skill set. Yup, she makes it look so easy without any effort. Definitely the dream gamer girl every guy wants! If she could only just talk! But then again, many guys prefer girls who don’t talk much! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Oops… Now Haruo has video games and Oono on his mind, I hope his mind can take it and not explode! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

And the rest of the other characters are just biding their time hoping something interesting would happen between Haruo and Oono or Hidaka. Heck, mom and Makoto are partners in crime and they have no shame to even admit that they care so as just to tease him. I can see why it is so much fun. But be careful not to bite off more than one could chew. Like when Oono and Hidaka in Haruo’s room at the same time. Definitely, High Tension Girl!!! Even waiting for the results of your entrance exam isn’t that stressful. These 2 can form a manzai comedy team because they are equally hilarious and sometimes make stupid facial expressions. Miyao continues to be Haruo’s best supporting friend in any way he can while I don’t see how Doi has become part of this groupie. Is it me or is there a mini joke that he gets stripped till his boxers? Once by those ganguro gals and another time by Haruo just for being somer berserk dick. And then his dark sparkles become clean bright ones after he accepts Haruo x Oono? Good for him, I guess.

Gouda also doesn’t feel as bad as the first time we were introduced to her, thanks to the last time they reconciled her side of the view. It comes a bit too late that she is supporting Oono so I guess the ‘true antagonists’ are Oono’s parents whom at their whim and fancies just decide to recall their youngest daughter all for the sake of their family’s future and prestige. Oono is a great child trying to live up to their expectations but I was hoping that Makoto who volunteered to not be part of their system would really go out her way to do something if she was serious in protecting Oono’s precious time. She might lack the resources but what does this say about her determination? Otherwise she’s just all talk and some useless bum who only knows how to have fun. All at Oono’s expense :’(. Don’t you feel bad, girl? Oono’s departure to Los Angeles may be the unscrupulous chance Hidaka needs for a comeback. It’s not the best way to settle things but hey, at least she’ll get her man. I don’t believe that she has made her peace over her feelings with her final fight with Oono. It was just to give them some space for goodbyes. Things are already so high tension and it would be just messier if Hidaka got into the picture in the midst of all that. So as not to forget her, hence her final appearance just to give Haruo that push to make that tough decision. You know what they say about time healing all wounds. So give her some time before those complicated feelings of love starts to creep back…

This season’s opening theme is Flash sung by Sora Tob Sakana (who also sang last season’s opener). Just like last season, the song seems pretty fitting for a video game based anime as it is filled with some video game-like sound effects. Also, the singer’s voice sounds flat as always. But the weirdest part is how everyone is doing some weird synchronized arcade dancing. Also, Haruo along with Oono and Hidaka playing some weird hide and seek with the arcade machine? Huh? Notice that the opening scene Zangief defeats Guile? Is this a foreshadowing that Haruo can never beat Oono???!!! And Russia > America???!!! Etsuko Yakushimaru who did last season’s ending theme is also retained for this season. Although Unknown World Map sounds a lot better than Houkago Distraction, I still can’t help that her voice sounds as flat as the last time. I have to keep reminding myself that this isn’t the voice of Oono…

Overall, I hope this isn’t the true ending for this series and there could be another sequel in the future. I don’t know. After they surprised me with having extra episodes and a second season after the first, now I’m prepared for the unexpected. And then the third season never comes. Bummer. But looking back at both seasons, from a general point of view, the love triangle and romance aren’t anything much. Some funny moments, some weird moments. Weird Flash-like animation and a main character who doesn’t even talk. I guess only gamers might appreciate watching this but only if you’re old as me because the nostalgic arcade games are really, well, nostalgic. It is no wonder that so many simple retro games continue to win our hearts compared to big cutting edge advanced gaming technology games. That is why simple pure love still is in many ways better than big flashy and flamboyant passion. The best ending ever definitely.

This is it!!! The moment of truth is at hand. After putting hours after hours of effort, defeating waves after waves of henchmen, upgrading and levelling up as much as we can, unlocking all secrets and bonuses along the way, we’re finally here. Finally at the last ultimate final secret boss. One final match that stands in the way of ultimate victory. Victory is almost at hand. One final battle to justify all the hard work of finally reaching here. The final fight is at hand. Don’t lose heart now. Don’t chicken out now. Go forth! The way is forward! Show all that you have learnt! Show all that you have mastered! Only then you can grasp and taste the fruits of your triumph. Godspeed! Oh wait. What’s that? We’re supposed to be talking about the final extra episodes of High Score Girl – Extra Stage? Uhm… Erm… Doesn’t it feel like that? Yeah… Real life fight for love is much more complicated and harder than the fighting games in the arcade.

Episode 13
Haruo talks to Miyao hypothetically about a girl confessing to him. To his surprise, Miyao knows it is Hidaka. Even more surprising, he knows she has a crush on him since middle school. The best way is to tell her who he likes and turn her down. He has someone he likes, right? Unfortunately Haruo doesn’t know who! Oh boy. This is going to get messy. Meanwhile we are introduced to Makoto, Oono’s elder sister who is very crude and child-like. They are like day and night. Oono’s butler realizes that it is perhaps the brunt of Oono’s strict upbringing could have been a backlash due to Makoto’s lackadaisical ways. At the same time, Gouda visits Haruo’s home. Though she is not particularly here to thank him for that incident of Oono running away from home, she is also here to tell him to sever ties with her. She believes he is a bad influence on her and he is more than a nuisance. While Guile wants Haruo to tell her off that their relationship is more than that, Haruo just couldn’t open his mouth and fight back. Instead, it is his mom who will not accept her son being called that. She fires back that everyone has their own ways in raising their child and she has no regrets letting Haruo grow at his own pace. In that case, Gouda ‘thanks’ her for the advice and that she will do things in her own ways. After she leaves, Haruo has renewed respect for mom and is glad to be her son. He regrets not being able to talk back but mom is fine with that. After all, it still won’t be right if a kid talks back to an adult. Lovely mom and son moment ‘ruined’ when mom asks to see his report card. Oh my. Here comes mom’s unrelenting combos!

Back home, Makoto tells Oono what she saw. Gouda has reprimanded her butler as she knows he has been secretly letting Oono play his Game Gear in his car. He will be relieved of his driver duties and will be confined to house duties. One more mistake and she has the power to fire him. Oono felt bad and rushes to see him. But he decides to bring her somewhere as his last job. Of course, that is to Haruo’s house and Haruo could see the sadness in Oono’s eyes. Mom suggests Haruo take Oono to the local festival as the adults badmouth talk about Gouda. Since it’s too early for the festivals, they hit the arcade. They play lots of games and you can see both of them lighting up. If only they could live and play at arcades like this forever. Once done, they head down to the festivals as Haruo remembers what her butler told him. Today will be his last day on the job as Gouda has hired a new driver who will stick to the family rules. Her schooling will be even stricter and all chance to meet him will be cut off. That is why he is giving his last chance to them to be together and he hopes he could be her emotional support. Oono wins a FFVI game prize at the shooting gallery. She gives it to Haruo. He gladly accepts and invites her to come over and play any time. Then he realizes the problem: Will there be another time? Taking a closer look at Oono’s face, he realizes how cute she is. She kicks him in the gut! Is that a sign of approval? When they return, it’s time to part. So what’s her parting gift? Just planting her face on his shoulder. Well. Uhm. Okay. Bye. Take care.

Episode 14
Haruo continues to hone his skills at the arcade. Guile notes his progress an honour as a man. He relates why many video game characters brave the dangers and take risks is all because for their loved ones. That is why he must push forward and cannot afford to lose. Hidaka receives a challenge letter from Haruo. She has also gotten stronger thanks to the help of this goth gamer girl, Nikotama. She was impressed with her Darkstalkers’ gaming style and sensed she had the potential and invited her to her privately run arcade where night battles take place. For free, gamers can practice all they want. Hence you can see all those groupies (weirdoes with equally weird nicknames) with really insane consecutive winning streaks. D-day is here and the condition is that they will play 3 different fighting games. One battle each. Best 2 out of 3. The first is Samurai Showdown II. Hidaka easily defeats Haruo (WTF?! Weird group dance from the groupies to celebrate her win?!) but Nikotama can sense that something isn’t right. Next is King Of Fighters’95. Hidaka starts off aggressively in this 3 on 3 battle. When Haruo is down to his last fighter, that is when he turns the tables and easily defeats all of her characters. It is then Nikotama realizes what Haruo has that Hidaka lacks. Even though she has the desire to win, she does not enjoy playing the game like Haruo does. The final game is Darkstalkers. Haruo takes the first round and Hidaka coming back for the second. Man, it is really down the wire. So while at it, we hear Guile telling Haruo how he cannot lose because he has watched him work so hard in terms of life and gaming. In the end, Haruo wins! Then he starts bragging to Hidaka how cool everything was. However… She beats the crap out of him in her mini tantrum! I don’t think she’s being a sore loser. She takes out all her frustrations on him, accusing him that his way forward was meant for Oono. I guess when she’s done beating him, her groupies take over and continue the beat down combo. Hidaka is still angry at herself for losing despite working so hard. Nikotama says it is proof that she loves gaming. Hidaka goes home in tears :’(. But she refuses to give up on him or fighting games and will use this chance to grow stronger. That’s the spirit. On another day as Haruo hits the arcade alone, he thought he saw Oono at the mahjong game. Too bad it is Makoto and she knows all about him thanks to her sister.

Episode 15
Makoto gives Haruo a dating sim to play, Tokimeki Memorial. He’ll understand what women want. I’m not betting on it… So when Hidaka learns about this, she thinks he is doing this for Oono. Grr… She wants her Playstation back. Makoto is at Haruo’s place to see him play Tokimeki Memorial. Oddly, Haruo is being watched by Hidaka, Makoto and his mom! Oh damn! Women want to see how men struggle! As expected, he fails since he chose all the unpopular options. Yeah Haruo, you’re thinking only about yourself! Haruo is so bad at the game that he has got the bomb indicator for all the girls. Hidaka will lend her Playstation to him a little longer but reminds him that she too has a bomb ticking… Gulp. Even Makoto warns him her bomb will tick if he makes her sister cry. And mom’s bomb will definitely blow if he fails in his grades! Yikes! Later Makoto explains that because she rebelled against the family rules, Oono bore the brunt of it. That is why she wants to help out in any way she can. He thinks of bringing her to this AOU Show (some huge arcade convention) but it is going to sneak Oono out from Gouda’s view even for a day. Hence he gets this idea to create an RPG game for Oono based on RPG Maker: Super Dante. It will be based around Oono’s household and Gouda as the final last boss! After 30 days, he finally finishes it. Oono’s butler invites her to his room when Gouda is not around to let her play. Her face lights up as she is impressed with Haruo’s hard work. It is creative for Haruo to personify her mundane chores as demons she must battle to overcome. It is perfect except for one flaw: Makoto is one of the evil bosses! That sister is so pissed off… Every now and then, Oono sneaks into her butler’s room to play it but one day, Gouda sees this and realizes the truth. She thought Oono has been concentrating on her lessons and hence her methods were effective but realized the false assumptions she was under. The next time Oono comes in to play, the entire console is gone. Gouda catches her and says how she threw away all that. Oono is visibly angry and sad but all she could do is run away to her room.

Later Makoto tries to talk to Gouda about the awkward relationship she has with Oono. It is already tough that she has put up a barrier between them. Oono has been under her control since and yet she endures everything she tells her. Furthermore, she has to study under her. How can anyone stand that? Will this even make her grow up to be a decent person? Even the butler agrees. He doesn’t want Gouda to turn into an evil person just for Oono. Gouda goes to see Haruo at his job. She is here to apologize and compensate the console since she found out it belonged to him. Yeah, at least he got a better upgraded version now. When he asks about Oono, she replies she is hated now. She asks him back on his thoughts on Oono. A wall he can’t overcome and someone whom he wants to play games with. Although she’s weird, that is what’s interesting about her. Haruo even advises Gouda to lose those evil looking glasses. Oono would prefer her better without them. On the day Haruo invites his mom to AOU Show (mom so happy, I guess her son has no one else to go with), it’s a good thing the voice of Guile stops him. Because a second too soon, he would have missed Oono coming by to return the umbrella that Gouda borrowed the other day. I guess Gouda was decent enough to let her have a day off from studying. Mom takes this as a sign that God wants them to be together and is willing to trade her place with Oono. She tells him to be a man and use all that he has learnt from Tokimeki Memorial! On the crowded train, cliché moment for them to be huddled together and hold hands. Is this the start of a new relationship forward? At the convention, the duo are happy with all the new games on display. They enjoy the rest of the day together. Haruo thought it would be hard to start any conversation with her if she had no interest in video games. There is literally nothing else to talk about! Ironically, Oono being silent herself, can’t stand the silence either. So she wants him to keep talking? On the way back, Haruo notices her many prizes she got from the crane game. He asks which prize she likes best. She shows him that small ring. Ah… So nostalgic. Haruo hopes they can go to such shows together again next time. Just before they part, Haruo gets rammed by her butler’s car. It was getting late so he went out to search for her. Yeah, this feels nostalgic too…

No Game, No Life!
Eh… What… Why does the ending feel unsatisfying? I guess I have to blame myself for expecting that Haruo makes a decision with either Oono or Hidaka. While the ending might feel somewhat inconclusive, but it clears some of the more pervasive issues at hand. Firstly, to solve the case of Hidaka’s revenge match and although this puts an end to the route of him having to date her, not at least by a long shot because with Hidaka being a woman in love, looks like she’s shifting the goal post and still won’t give up. Even if Hidaka still has a chance in the future and will be backing down temporarily for now, this incident put at ease the gamer relationship between Haruo and Hidaka. It would have been interesting to see the other route in which Haruo lost and be Hidaka’s man because I’m sure this would also impact Oono greatly.

The other issue somewhat solve is of course Oono’s household issues. Gouda was fast becoming the main antagonist and final boss for our young ones to clear but thankfully to show that she is not totally a demon, she too shows her softer side as a human being and cuts Oono some slack. Even though Oono is not completely freed from her family’s strict upbringing cycle, the ending indicates that she has slightly more freedom than before. Even if we didn’t get to see Haruo and Oono officially become an item (or fans for Oono x Hidaka), but as Guile said, their relationship goes way beyond your typical male-female lovers. Their love for video games brought them together and I believe that is what the ending of this entire series wanted to demonstrate. Therefore from this perspective, it is a good and happy ending for our main characters because they bridged the gap and finally come together as gamers but not so good ending for purist romance genre fans.

While it is nice to see that Haruo and Oono’s friendship is slowly building towards what we would hope to see, the one thing that I still find it annoying and unsatisfying is that Oono still doesn’t speak!!! I was expecting and thought that perhaps in the final episode she would shock us all by saying one line in her decent voice even if it was a short sentence with only a few words that would put Twitter to shame. But nope. She continues to remain a ‘retard’. Hence, only solidifying my conspiracy theory that she is so traumatized by the family’s strict upbringing that she started losing her voice. Gee, I wonder who she would grow up into a decent adult if she can’t speak properly, huh? Maybe whoever she is betrothed to doesn’t need her to speak! Oh well. Don’t want to open a can of worms by foreseeing that future. Because the only future that we all want to see her is ending up with Haruo (or Hidaka for you Hidaka fans).

So with Haruo talking on her behalf while she only do soft grunts and groans, I guess I could say that Haruo is now definitely better in knowing what her heart is (albeit he has still got a long way more to learn – time to practice more Tokimeki Memorial) and what she wants to say after spending a lot of time with her. I think that’s the beauty of this relationship of theirs although thinking about it, it is a bit odd seeing the communication is only one way in this verbal sense. But whatever. It works for them. But in video game sense, Haruo can also be considered a success because he didn’t end up like video game protagonists saving their love, at least he saved her from the ‘imprisonment of her heart’. Oono might have the achievement of having high scores on almost every game but Haruo scores as the winner for these girls’ heart! As a gamer boy who is good at nothing else, having a couple of girls to like you or rely on you is as good as winning the game of life.

I believe that Oono is a very blessed and lucky girl. Despite her strict and less than fortunate circumstances, she has a few other individuals who would stand up for her. Other than Haruo, her butler and Makoto (even Haruo’s mom can be considered) are also her strong supporters. I’m not saying that Oono not rebelling against the family and Gouda means that she is weak. I think things will get a lot worse if she did that. It is sad that she had to endure and do all the things she dislikes but I suppose that is her way of fighting. Sometimes being obedient isn’t a sign of weakness. For her to obey everything that Gouda throws at her without question, that is a sign of strength because seriously, who can actually keep up with all that strictness without going crazy?

Gouda may look like the antagonist and is acting like one all for Oono’s sake but remember, she is hired to do her job. She was even willing to play the bad guy all for Oono’s future. Imagine if she slacks, she’ll get more than just being fired from her employers. Maybe she just needs to refine her educating methods and thankfully as said, to show us that she isn’t totally a cold hearted person, she eventually cuts Oono some slack and even takes up Haruo’s advice to lose those evil glasses! See, looking a little lovely there, no?

Makoto as the new character thrown in for this extra episodes, her totally opposite behaviour makes you wonder if they are really related. I keep wondering how she can still stay in the family and still be as loose as ever. Perhaps the parents have given up on her and couldn’t care less on what she does. I mean, it’s not like she does anything bad so she is free to do whatever she wants while continuing to live under their household. If Makoto was truly independent, she would have lived on her own but I guess she might still need some of her parents’ money. It’s not like we know what she really does, right? Oh yeah. She’s staying back to help Oono. I suppose every little help and support counts. Nikotama’s character feels a bit redundant. Could have been done without but I guess we need to see how Hidaka has grown and improved a lot thanks to the guidance of a mentor.

I thought with Makoto having decent lines here, I thought Sayumi Suzushiro who is the voice of Oono would be getting proper lines here playing as her elder sister. Nope. It is Chinatsu Akasaki who does Makoto (Yasuna in Kill Me Baby, Alice in Shokugeki No Souma). So I guess Oono’s seiyuu still has the easiest job of voice acting, huh? Hence Oono’s heart breaking scream during her parting with Haruo at the airport for her departure to LA in the TV series is still by far the ‘loudest’ we could hear from her. As for Nikotama, I recognized that voice from Witch Craft Works’ Tanpopo and Uchi No Maid Ga Uzasugiru’s Yui. Just couldn’t remember her name. Oops, sorry. Oh, it’s Shiori Izawa. Hope to remember her from now on.

As the retro games here are the main features for old viewers like yours truly, the extra episodes also didn’t disappoint. Especially the fighting games that are my favourite genres in video games. But with the episodes focusing on the battles of Haruo with Hidaka and Oono, these games are given slightly less prominence. Also, no mid-intermission and next episode distractions of featuring new and old games alike. WTF is that weird 3D render of, uhm, I don’t even know what the heck that item is in the next episode preview. I would like to credit these extra episodes for reminding me of a very old retro game that I think I have played in a relative’s house and would have forgotten totally about it had not it appeared here: China Gate. Not to say that I spent a lot of time playing this weird beat ‘em up, but I’m sure this was one of the many obscure games that I played or watched during my very seemingly hazy childhood years.

Overall, even though the ending was a bit unsatisfying, it is still a nice conclusion to the series. At least for this season’s arc. Our characters have grown a lot and more importantly, they still love video games. I still hope there is another season for this series but I doubt it will be as this interesting and nostalgic. Because I’m speculating about love woes when our main characters hit puberty. Hidaka might come back for another round for Haruo’s love assuming he isn’t officially dating Oono by then. With the arcades dying and the rise of consoles, that’s probably when my nostalgia of video games might also start to wane because by the mid-90s, I became more of a PC person. So they better show a few nostalgic PC games if you want me to love your sequel! Oh yeah. Those were the days where video games were simpler and complete. Uh huh. Damn those season passes, premium passes, pre-orders, DLCs, microtransactions, loot boxes, multiple complicated collectors and limited editions, game breaking bugs, incomplete games… I hope there won’t come a time they charge $15 just to put your name up on the leaderboards after achieving some really cool high score or stats. For the first 10 days. Because an extra $1 for every subsequent day thereafter to stay on the board. Argh! High Score Grrrrr!!!!

High Score Girl

January 27, 2019

Oh well. You know the state of the video gaming industry these days, right? So anti-consumer. Ah, if old guys like me could just go back in time where the arcades were king and games were somewhat much simpler. Yeah, damn those nostalgic memories. But thank goodness for High Score Girl, right? Now I can visually relive those memories of the early 90’s where many fighting games (still my favourite game genre till this day) were running rampant. Back in those days, boys were often seen as playing such games. But a gamer girl? And a beautiful one? Very rare. But they do exist. That’s what this series is seemingly about. The bond and relationship of a video game nerd boy and a very well-off and lady-like beautiful gamer girl.

Episode 1
Haruo Yaguchi is on a roll playing SFII. Until this girl and classmate, Akira Oono beats him. It is her turn to rack up the winning streak. All guys who challenge her fall to the wayside. Haruo won’t give up and attempts to defeat her. He uses a cheap move from Guile to defeat her Zangief in the first round. So confident that he plays the next round with only one hand. And lost. Then back to that cheap strategy in the third round. He wins. Guess what? Oono punches him! Who is the sore loser here? Haruo cannot believe a rich cultured girl like Oono is entering his video game domain. To protect his pride, after watching her defeat Vega (That’s Bison to you Americans) with Dhalsim, he tries to do the same but realizes the cabinet is in poor conditions. She beat the game like that? Haruo plays Splatter House and can’t help notice Oono watching him. After he finishes, she follows him home! WTF?! Is she turning into a stalker? Turns out she is afraid of horror stuffs and got scared after watching him play Splatter House. Later Haruo hits the arcade again. This time his opponent is a real sore loser. He gets noisy abusing the machine if he loses. When Oono takes over and does the same, the dumb couple confront her. Haruo steps in but gets beaten up. Oono then beats them up for being too noisy! Haruo takes her and run as the dumb couple get arrested by the arcade guys thinking they wrecked the machine. On a rainy day, Haruo and Oono are stuck in a candy store run by an old conniving grandma. She only lets you in if you have money to spend. And so what a better way for them to pass time by playing the Final Fight arcade. Haruo thought he is better than her at this game but soon realizes she is only beating the game with normal moves. She won’t let him take power ups too. It dawned to him that she is trying to gun for a high score. When they finish the game, the weather has cleared. He treats her to lollipops. Just as they leave, suddenly Haruo is run over by a car! It is Oono’s butler looking all over for her. Thank goodness Haruo didn’t even die or have permanent damage.

Episode 2
The class is cleaning the pool. Genta Doi might be the class’ handsome guy but he doesn’t have Oono’s heart. Try as he might but she ignores him. Worse, he is jealous Oono is even mixing with loser Haruo. When Haruo gets sick after that, he rests at home but Oono pays him a visit to hand some notes. Mom sure loves a cute girl coming to visit her son and even hopes for some sort of ‘accident’ to happen. After mom goes out shopping, Haruo notices Oono itching to play his PC Engine. He lets her play but finds her suck using a controller. You see, this is her first time playing a console! He introduces her to a few more games in his collection but since she still sucks at the controllers, he can’t take it anymore and tries to show it to her. By that time mom returns and thinks her son is trying to take out his beastly desires and wrestles him. Why does she look so happy? When Haruo is well and back to school, he realizes Oono’s conspiracy to try and make him sick again so she can visit and play his PC Engine! With the summer vacation around the corner, it seems Oono is not too please that her personal tutor, Moemi Gouda is going to inculcate all that is considered ‘culture’. Hence, it is understandable why she ‘runs away’ with Haruo who heard about some legendary arcade whose price is as cheap as 10 Yen for all games (he too is ‘running away’ from showing his mom his report card filled with Fs). Borrowing some aunty’s bicycle, they make their way to this creepy and shady joint. But they get to enjoy themselves with lots of old and retro original games. Even the crane game is an outdated version. They leave when they’re done but Haruo realizes he forgot the bicycle keys left behind. The moment they turn back, the joint is now an abandoned shop lot. Oh sh*t! They hear rumours how the owner of this arcade passed away many years ago after he went out of business. Oono is so scared of this ghost story that she beats up Haruo?! Is this female logic?! No choice, they walk the entire way home. Haruo is considerate enough to lend his shoes to her to walk more comfortably. He even treats her to some ground meat cutlet with all that’s left of his allowance. Happy ending when her butler finally finds her. He tells her he can join him at arcades if she ever wants to ‘run away’. But Haruo’s hell has just begun as mom beats him up after seeing his report card. As punishment, she takes away his PC Engine.

Episode 3
Haruo notices Oono not focused in her games. Doi invites some of his classmates to a flower garden in a theme park but his real intention is to get Oono to like him. Good luck on that. Then Chihiro Onizuka suggests a boy-girl pairing did Doi appoint the pairings. This is so weird because Onizuka is bugging Haruo of wanting to show his penis to confirm if there’s a bone in it?! WTF???!!! Eventually Haruo and Oono manage to escape from their ‘tormentors’ and end up in the arcade. Great gamers think alike, huh? They have fun with many of the arcade games before realizing the need to get back to the rest to avoid suspicions. Yeah, Onizuka has targeted Doi to show her his bone penis!!! Haruo and Oono end up riding many of the other attractions and he only obliges since she has never been to a theme park before. Too bad the last ride on the Ferris Wheel is closed. On the bus ride home, he lets her sleep on his shoulder, thinking she has her own set of problems to deal with. When school resumes, Haruo is shocked to learn that Oono will be transferring out since her dad’s job changed to Los Angeles. Hence everyone buys gifts for her. Haruo isn’t the only one who didn’t buy any and is accused of being insensitive. Worse, he brags with her gone, he will dominate the arcades again. Of course the real reason is Haruo didn’t know what to get her. So spend it all on the arcades! As he keeps playing, he feels a sense of void. He keeps thinking of Oono. So much so the voice of Guile lectures him to be honest to himself! With that, he runs out of the arcade and goes all the way to the airport. I guess it must be nearby for him to reach there just before her flight is due. He lets her know how he’ll be lonely without a competitor. He gives her some small ring which he wanted to give to mom for mother’s day. It’s the only thing he could give her. Oono is so touched that she jumps to hug him and lets loose the loudest ever cry you’ll hear. It’s the first time we hear her voice this clear even if she’s just bawling tears. Her family forcefully tear her away as we see Oono’s heart breaking tears of separation :’(. Even in departure, she somehow manages to scratch Haruo’s face. Is this her present to him?

Episode 4
Haruo is now in middle school and what a year it is because Virtua Fighter just came out. Fellow classmate, Koharu Hidaka doesn’t seemed impressed with Haruo’s carefree attitude as he spends his time mostly at the arcade. Unlike her boring life of studying in her room. Yeah, he looks like always having fun. The school has sent out warnings to those who patron the arcade. Nice best friend Haruo has got there as he got ratted and must now write an apology letter. But after he waits for everyone to leave, he quickly takes out his handheld to play SFII! Until he realizes Hidaka has been waiting for him to close the class since she is on duty. Because of that, a heavy blizzard falls and she has no choice but to take shelter at granny’s shop. Haruo is there too as he introduces her to video games. He lets her try playing SFII. Wow. She picked Zangief (because he looks the strongest) and is this beginner’s luck because she defeats Ken in straight rounds! Of course she lets Haruo handles the rest as he wins the game. After they leave, Haruo laments this store will soon close as granny is too old to man it. He will lose his place of arcade. Hidaka then says her family shop recently set up a few cabinets outside (they run a liquor store by the way) and this delights Haruo as he promises to come there every day! Hidaka has a strange dream of being in a pixelated video game world with Haruo. Spend one long time with him and she’s seeing weird things? The class is having a Christmas party and as Hidaka leaves, she sees Haruo playing the arcade outside her family store. This is more important than some stupid Christmas party! Hidaka isn’t too fond of joining the party too and wants to watch him play. Finally when he has had his fill, they prepare to head to the party when Hidaka’s grandpa comes in to install the latest Super SFII! OMG! Now Haruo can’t leave! He must play this game! Screw the party! I wonder if Hidaka enjoys watching him play or just him. Hidaka wants him to play a few games she suggests as she is having a hard time clearing the levels but he tells her to try first and if she still cannot beat it, then he’ll show it to her how it’s done. When it’s game over, Hidaka suggests they exchange their Christmas gifts. Hers is a pair of mittens that she knitted. To keep those cold fingers warm when he hits the buttons outside in the cold. Haruo’s present is a game magazine. I’m pretty sure she is happy not because it is a magazine…

Episode 5
Haruo is about to head to the shop to buy a cheap game for the new year when he stumbles into Hidaka. OMG! MORTAL KOMBAT CAUGHT HER EYE!!!!!!! I LOVE THIS GAME!!! BRINGS BACK SO MUCH MEMORIES!!! Haruo introduces her to all the real-like gore of MORTAL KOMBAAAAAAAT!!! They even mock about the gibberish lines some characters say! He even lets her try but she got lucky with her button mashing and even pulls off a Fatality!!! Awesome beginner’s luck?! Do you not know how long it took me to even figure out the first fatality?! Anyway, after that they play Samurai Showdown and Haruo totally owns the sore loser guy. He might be using cheap moves but hey, you’re bad means you’re bad. In the end, it descends into some lame physical brawl. Hidaka is not amused by it all. Not only Haruo had somewhat bad gamer etiquette, despite praising her mittens that he is able to pull off better combos, the mittens are now wrecked. That’s putting it to good use, right? Next day, she notices him playing outside her store. She feels guilty if she was being cold to him. Even more so when he is still playing when there’s a blizzard. Worried, is she? Thinking he is waiting for her to go see him, she does and since his hands are full at the controllers, she has him feed him? Then she learns he is trying to get high scores and put his name on the entire list to mark his presence! She unplugs the cable… NOOO!!!! It is Valentine’s Day and Hidaka hears guys mocking whoever gives chocolates to Haruo are just dumb. Yeah, I guess Hidaka is the only dumb one… Since Haruo feigned sickness just to stay home and play his games, Hidaka visits him to of course pass some school stuffs. Once again, mom is getting pretty excited for a girl to visit her son. Please stop stalking at the door! Since she is here, Haruo introduces her to his game collection and even plays some before passing the controller for her to continue while he goes get some rest. But Hidaka plays an old game once Oono played and this brings back nostalgic memories. He realizes it has been 2 years since she left and he feels the need to get better so he can fight her in tiptop condition. After Hidaka leaves, she notices Haruo became awfully quiet after that. Like as though he is thinking of someone else. A woman’s intuition of another is never wrong… And it’s not like she’s giving up on this feeling either. Speaking of Oono. Looks like she has returned to Japan.

Episode 6
It’s the start of the new school term and Haruo as usual isn’t interested in anything except his games. Even when Koutarou Miyao says there is a new transfer student, nothing will stop Haruo and his arcades. Hidaka once more accompanies Haruo to the arcade at the mall but since it is crowded and the cabinets aren’t 2 players friendly, they leave for the real arcade to play the SFII X. Haruo racks up straight victories with Guile. When the teacher, Numata is seen entering, many students scram. Haruo is in danger of losing his streak but Hidaka will cover for him since she is not in a uniform. I guess it’s better to lose your streak than to get caught. As Haruo hides in the toilet, Hidaka amazingly manages to win! But the next player… Oono! At first she looks like indecisive to choose a character. However she activates and selects a hidden character, Akuma! Hidaka gets her ass whooped. Hidaka apologizes to Haruo for the loss and tells him of this hidden character. Haruo feels the need to meet this player (Oono however left after that victory) and starts running out to find her only to be run over by the butler’s car. Ah, such nostalgic feeling… Don’t worry, Haruo’s okay as always. Oono spots Haruo but isn’t pleased to see another woman with him. Next day, Onizuka asks if Haruo has met Oono but Haruo looks calm, probably holding in his shock. After school, it finally hits Haruo that his rival is back and even though scared to see her again, he believes he has levelled up enough to face her. At the arcade where he first played her, he finds a crowd watching and amazed at her 100 over winning streak! With Zangief! When it’s Haruo’s turn to challenge her, Oono left her seat. This only saddens Haruo. Accidentally he went to play Final Fight and Oono is playing it?! Haruo could sense she is taking out her anger on him on his character. He starts getting teary eyed, conflicted about the return of his rival. He thought he has practised hard enough to fight hard but apparently she too might have levelled up beyond his reach. Perhaps the right to be equal in play is not his right anymore. After completing the game, Oono leaves. Hidaka sees them together. A woman’s intuition is again never wrong. Oono is seen still holding on to Haruo’s ring.

Episode 7
Hidaka finally got a Super Famicom version of Final Fight and hopes this would lure Haruo to her place to play. Too bad it backfires because he wants to borrow instead. During recess as he goes over the game magazine, some guy calls out to Oono just to confess to her. In front of everybody?! Of course that face means you’re rejected. This loser then starts blaming Haruo and wants to know his relationship with her. You mean Haruo starts thinking for an answer? As he doesn’t want to expose her as a gamer girl and knowing she is way better than him to be called a rival, he says she is more of a thorn by his side. Oh dear. Oono angry. And when Haruo tries to talk to her, it’s that cold shoulder again. Can’t understand women. I suppose Haruo gets another shock when Miyao says he wants to confess to Oono at their school field trip to Kyoto. When the train is at a stop, Numata is having some motion sickness and has Haruo get some cider for him. Since he is given extra money to buy other drinks, Haruo is having trouble carrying it all. Hidaka helps since the train is going to leave. You know how punctual Japanese trains are, right? Oops. It left. And while Hidaka takes the responsibility to call and inform the Kyoto side, Haruo is delighted there is an arcade nearby. All for himself! Hidaka is so mad that she’s showing her frustrations by playing this whack-a-mole game. Haruo does have a little consideration so he walks with her along Lake Biwa as she confuses herself with thoughts that this is like a date. Then an old sweets shop with old arcade games. Oh yeah! She finds it strange that video games connect her to him. But sometimes it backfires because Haruo has her take over as he goes to the toilet. By the time they take the bus and reach their inn, it’s already evening. Why so sad, Hidaka? Want to stay like this a little longer, you say? Oh, there’s an arcade at the inn too. Haruo spots Oono there and teases her gamer instinct but brags about being with Hidaka and all the arcades they hit along the way. Not sure which one is angering Oono more. Maybe both. Is Haruo doing this on purpose? He should’ve seen it coming she would beat him up. He thinks of playing Bomberman with his pals with the PC Engine he snuck onto this trip. Too bad the teacher, Reiko Touno confiscate it.

Episode 8
Since today is a free day, Haruo plans to sneak to Osaka for an SFII X tournament. Miyao will cover for him. Hidaka isn’t pleased that Haruo prefers game to Kyoto but Miyao can tell she has fallen for him. He might be an idiot but is a nice guy once you get to know him. At the tournament, Haruo sees Oono there too! He believes it’s their chance for a rematch but good thing or bad thing as they are at opposing sides of the block so they’ll only get to face each other in the finals. Of course Oono makes her way to the finals but during Haruo’s semi-final match, he is up against a guy who is an Akuma user. He is bad against such players and can only hope for a miracle. However this guy accidentally chose wrongly and hence indeed a miracle for Haruo to beat him. This guy trashes the cabinet demanding for a rematch but is taken away. It’s the anticipated Haruo vs Oono final. Guile vs Zangief. This time Haruo shows off all he has learnt and does not rely on cheap spamming tricks. Because of that he wins the first round. But as the second round starts, he starts hesitating if Oono is holding back. Yeah, he loses. In the final round, Haruo makes a comeback and wins it! After collecting his trophy and everyone has left, Haruo overhears the technician checking the cabinet. It seems Oono’s buttons were not properly functioning! Probably damaged by that Akuma user guy. Because of that, Haruo angrily confronts Oono about not saying anything. He starts complaining of how hard he had practised so he could fight her on the same terms but now she won’t even face him properly in a big event? She truly is just a thorn by his side! Oono starts punching him. Haruo fights back but Oono took martial arts before and that’s some mean punches she throws at him! She only stops after hearing him say he longed for her to come back after all this time. Then he sees the ring she is still keeping. Time to clean up and head home. Haruo learns (through the voice of Guile) that Oono didn’t say anything so as not to kill the mood. Not especially when the final was about to start. They return to the inn but I wonder how Haruo is going to explain about his messed up face. Miyao could understand what happened after Haruo explains his master-apprentice relationship with Oono. He knows he has no room between them. On the way back, Miyao and Hidaka are shocked if Haruo is still hazy from the injury because he is starting to think about his educational future! Perhaps this is the only way if he truly wants to stand at the same level as Oono.

Episode 9
Haruo is at the arcade as he sees Oono’s butler trying to take her back but she is throwing a tantrum. Haruo talks to him and hopes he cuts her some slack. He also gives him ‘permission’ to hit the pachinko in which old geezer gladly obliges. I suppose everybody just wants to have their break. Haruo and Oono play Virtua Fighter and she completely owns him in the first round before Haruo coming back with the remainder rounds. He wonders if Oono was just being considerate but ironically she didn’t hit him or get mad this time. Has she matured? This has Haruo think that she is still alone. He continues to talk about games with her especially the new Playstation and Sega Saturn consoles he wants to get and inviting her to come to his home to play. They spend their last summer days hitting the arcades with Oono astounding the crowd by beating Darkstalkers for the first time without losing and that punch-o-meter… Haruo is starting to worry if she is taking out her anger on him in this punch. I think she can knock out any heavyweight boxer! Haruo vows to not only cheer her up if she ever again gets lonely but to also be with her. This means surprise, surprise, Haruo starts studying! Even mom is shocked and moved to tears! Too bad his memorization of combos isn’t doing well for his studies. He is even hearing voices from his games to play him! But his resistance is strong. Haruo tells his friends he is applying for Jounan, a super tough requirement to enter high school and of course this is where Oono is enrolling.

During the PTA, I guess mom trolled-cum-embarrassed her son that his change of heart from always slacking to suddenly become studios is because of love. Love for mom! With his motivation, Touno and friends help him to study. While he is hitting the arcades less at this time, Oono continues to make her usual visit to the arcades but she is often in a slump. Wonder why… On the day Haruo goes to take his entrance exam, surprisingly Oono’s butler comes to pick him up. Apparently he bumped into his mom and she revealed everything. He believes the arcade is what links Haruo and Oono together. He was worried he was hitting the arcades less and this might make their feelings grown apart. Because even if Oono was at the arcades, she still feels down. Too bad Haruo is too dense so butler has to spell out for him that she goes to the arcade just to wait for him to come. She finds emotional support in him. As he has not mentioned this to her, Haruo has to tell her by himself. So in the car, it feels awkward between the duo. Haruo breaks the ice by talking about some upcoming cool games. As the game industry is evolving at a crazy rate, he wants them to witness that evolution together. Because she excels in both games and studies, it will be uncool for him to fall behind. Hence he is trying to get to Jounan too. Hearing this makes Oono feel sad and the most she could do is hold his hand. Haruo begins his exam and he hopes to confess his true feelings to Ono if he passes. Unfortunately that would not come to be as he failed but Oono passed.

Episode 10
Hidaka has grown her hair out and despite having a few guys confessing to her, she rejects them. Still having that sole guy in your heart? Too bad went to an all-girls high school while Haruo ended up in the same high school as Miyao. Hidaka visits him and learns that he is also doing some part time work to earn money for his games and that he is spending more time playing his Sega Saturn than hitting the arcades. She knows because she has been going to the arcades lately and hasn’t seen him there. Although she has a Playstation, Haruo’s gamer logic means he can’t betray his loyalty to Sega Saturn? Once a while it’s good to return to the arcades. Hidaka challenges him to SFII since she has gotten good. Haruo thinks he still has it and despite she chose Akuma, he still believes he can beat her using E. Honda. He lost! He challenges her to Darkstalkers but gets an even more humiliating defeat. Haruo realizes Hidaka has gotten stronger and he has gotten weaker ever since ditching the arcades. Reality check for Haruo as he realizes he hasn’t been good in his studies and now his pride is shattered to pieces. How can he face Oono like this? With the help of Guile’s voice, he won’t give up and will return to hone his skills at the arcade. I thought I forgot all about Doi but apparently he is also in the same high school with Haruo. I’m sure he is still worried about Oono but who cares. This guy is full of complaints even as he follows Haruo and Miyao to the arcades. Welcome to the video game world. Miyao can tell Haruo has been avoiding Oono as he is giving all sorts of lame excuses. So while Miyao takes Doi to the horse betting game, Haruo is surprised Hidaka is here. Why does he sound disappointed that it isn’t Oono? Haruo even says he is spooked by Hidaka because he dreamt of her beating him in the arcades? Well, that technically made Hidaka happy in some ways. Hidaka shows how much Haruo is lacking by defeating him easily in Samurai Showdown. Haruo only manages to win a round because of his dirty joke distraction. She even beats him at other games and sounds haughty. Hidaka might sound harsh but this is because she knows he is not paying attention to her. It is her belief that as long as she beats him, he will take notice of her. Probably she crossed the line after all those crushing defeats for Haruo, he runs home thinking he needs to start going back to basics by playing the most basic game. Poor guy. And then Hidaka and Oono meet… Oh, is Doi hooked on the horse betting game?

Episode 11
Miyao tries to be considerate and intervene but Hidaka requests Oono play a match with her as she wants to know her feelings. Instead, Doi tries to show off and flirt with Oono again. During the basketball tossing game, when Hidaka asks Oono if she has seen Haruo lately, this causes her to lose concentration and the ball hits her face. Normally one would be out but instead she went to play Virtua Cop! With Hidaka playing with her, Oono seems invincible until Hidaka asks those questions. She says Haruo has been avoiding her because of how inferior he felt after failing to get into Jounan. That’s why he hasn’t been coming to the arcade. If she isn’t interested in him or feel anything for him, Hidaka will gladly take that place. Oono suddenly powers up in the game and does an awesome move. Can we take it that is her answer? When Oono returns, she gets reprimanded by Gouda for still visiting the arcades. She then proceeds to remind her strict education life. Curfews and her devotion to study until college where she will marry a pre-determined partner. Sad. It sounds mean but can we blame Gouda since this is her parents’ wish and she is entrusted to ensure all that. Oono’s butler tries to side with Oono that allowing her to lose some steam via games is not that bad. Even if she isn’t allowed to go to the arcades, at least buy her a console. No can do. Maybe it is gramps who want a console?! With so many on her plate, it is no surprise Oono cries in her sleep. Especially what Hidaka told her about Haruo. Speaking of him, now he feels he has trained enough and has got his groove back in the arcades. However Oono is nowhere to be seen. He starts to feel sad if this is going to end up like before. One day as he returns home, he sees Oono’s butler outside. Looks like Oono has run away from home! He tells him what happened and he thought she would run to his place. Haruo gets permission to look for Oono. But how does he know where to look for her? Her butler did say she didn’t bring enough money so she could be at arcades where she can play a long time without spending much. Haruo visits the many arcades and could have gotten distracted if not for the inner voice of Guile and other video game characters tell him to get back looking. Finally he finds Oono playing a game in an arcade at Kawasaki. Found you. Time to go get something to eat.

Episode 12
Haruo calls mom for help. What to do? Oono doesn’t want to go home and they’ll miss the last train soon. If you leave it to mom… Yeah, she booked a nearby hotel for them to stay a night. In the same room! Wow. She really got this planned out, huh? Oh Haruo, you’ve got a lot to worry if this is going to look like some sort of kidnapping. What else can 2 kids do in a room? TV has the same boring ads. Aha! Plug in this new Famicom he just bought! You mean he just thought of that now?! Thanks to that, the night wasn’t so boring. When Haruo falls asleep, Oono admires his sleeping face up close. Next morning, Haruo has to leave early for his part time job but promises to be back before she checks out. Wow. He sure has deep pockets to even leave her some money to buy food. He is even considerate enough to think he wants to be her pillar of support and knows her family will scold her when she returns. Haruo must have taken half day to have time to go back and pick up Oono who is patiently waiting for him to return. Sure these 2 should start dating right now? On the way home, Haruo assures her that his mom will try to explain to her family to lessen the impact. He also invites her to come to his place if she gets sick of her family. A final photo commemoration and Haruo thinks of doing funny but Oono beats him up and the picture really comes out funny. Him being beaten… Meanwhile Hidaka is grateful that Haruo introduced her to video gaming and she is now a pro in her own right. However she laments no matter how good she got, she never got close to him. His eyes were only for Oono. Still, she continues to be captivated by him because of his straightforwardness. Later Hidaka visits Haruo’s home to lend her Playstation since he wanted to get good with Tekken 1 before Tekken 2 comes out. There goes his loyalty to Sega Saturn. Meanwhile mom wonders why so many girls are going for her son. I guess zero was the usual number so 2 seems like a lot. Haruo is excited playing the Playstation, he wants Hidaka to play with him. However she is just happy watching him play from the back. Yeah… Haruo decides to lend her his Playstation. Then Hidaka sees that photo of Haruo and Oono. Day ruined. As he walks her home, she asks him straight if he is dating Oono. Nope. Does he like her? Just her gaming skills. It gets even awkward as Hidaka cries and confesses she loves him. Please don’t use his console to beat him up! Even if she thinks he likes someone else, she still likes him. That rematch he wants with her so badly, here’s the deal. If he wins, she will leave quietly. If she wins, he must date her. Uhm, does he have any say in this? Guess not. I guess the real battle starts now! A battle Haruo has no practice experience ever!

Ready Player One (And Two)
Looks like we have got to wait for a little while longer to see if Haruo ends up with Oono or Hidaka. Or in worst case scenario, all by himself! Announced at the end of the TV series, this series will ‘continue’ in the form of OVAs in the near future. Until then, we are left hanging at one of the most crucial part of the story and possibly one of the most important events of the series. So frustrating! Don’t you just hate it when things are seemingly getting good only to be cut off suddenly? Why does this remind me that if you want more content, please pay up? The series’ setting might be in the early 90’s but the greed level is of today’s amazing standards.

First things first. This entire series is probably one big advertisement of nostalgia as the main attraction of why people like me watch this series is because of the retro arcade games featured. That is the showcase of every episode in this series and you can bet there are some retro games for your visual eye candy. Of course Japan being Japan and back at the early 90’s where the internet was still very much at its infant stages, there were quite a few games that I never knew. Not that it really set my tongue wagging wanting to play but even as an old time gamer who used to play a lot of games on computer (and some fair share at the arcade, only limited because I’m not rich enough to have so many coins at my disposal), there are still so many old games that I never knew off or called by a different name in its original Japanese release. Perhaps they are Japan only and not for the rest of the world. So it is with irony that seeing a short cameo of those games actually makes me feel a lot excited than the latest games today! Unless it’s Mortal Kombat!

The next episode preview is a perfect place to relive some of your retro game nostalgia even though it is just bare bones. It just tells us the name of the game and the year it was released in arcade and just one lousy screenshot of the main screen of the game. Hardly anything but for those old time gamers who spent lots of time playing that certain game, I’m sure it will bring back old memories. But this series isn’t just about old nostalgic games as the mid-intermission actually tries to help promote current games such as Tekken 7. Yeah, another form of nostalgia hitting us since you’ve realized how long a road the world of gaming has come. Feeling old already?

Putting aside the video games, I guess the storyline isn’t much. You could say I was being more distracted to the video games than paying attention to the plot, the seemingly budding bonding and relationship between Haruo and Oono. And possibly a love triangle with Hidaka getting caught in it. If I was in Haruo’s shoes and age, I believe I would be the same like him. Just dense and thinking nothing about games. Too engrossed with the games to even notice the feelings of the hottest chicks around him. From the start it looked like Haruo views Oono as a rival and has been doing stuffs just to be on par with her as a gaming rival. But as anime veterans know better, this relationship is going beyond video games, right? Yeah, maybe we’re just overthinking and reading too much as Haruo just actually wants a strong video game rival or an equal partner whom he can connect to with his hobbies. Heh. What’s that you say about Haruo not realizing he is in love with Oono? I’m too busy looking at the video games, man! Don’t distract me!

The other problem is Oono herself. Because she does not have any real dialogue in the series and is only reduced to grunts, groans and moans, I started to establish and stereotype her as some sort of retard. You know, a lot of problems would have been solved if she just open her mouth and speak but instead we are left to guess or Haruo taking on the role to speak on her behalf and guess what she is saying. I thought she has some sort of incurable throat cancer and that would have made it understandable and so tragic but with Oono continue to be an extreme taciturn, I really find her annoying and dislikeable. Sure, she has her own family issues and that is understandable. But if she doesn’t open her mouth and say her feelings, you think everybody is an esper? Girl, you got gold in your mouth is it? Funny, she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, so to speak! I’ve got this funny joke that when guys confess to Oono, is it because they like her as she is a woman who doesn’t open her mouth! Holy sh*t!

While the story seems average and is just one long wait and see game, can you call that character development? Sure, the unique friendship between Haruo and Oono is interesting to watch. No, I don’t mean Oono taking advantage of her gender to sometimes beat the crap out of Haruo when she sometimes throw a tantrum because it would be atrocious if it was the other way round. But anyway, to see a kid with no high expectations (not even from his own mother) to strike up a friendship with a girl who has her life laid out everything before her is interesting enough to take note. Yeah, I suppose it’s a reason why I sometimes don’t be engrossed at the video games here.

Both are from vastly different worlds and what connects them is simply video games. Oono might be multi-talented in everything she does but she does not have that one thing that Haruo has: Freedom. Even if Haruo is skill-wise inferior to her in video games, at least he has the freedom to do what he wants, say freely what is on his mind, be true to himself. This is what Oono really craves for and sees in him. Oono has to act (and ironically, say) what is expected of her at all times. I want to believe that she sees him as a link to freedom and in the future hopefully he will be that key to unshackle her from the chains that so called rich people and society expects of her. As you know, back in those days, video gaming isn’t as glorified and glamourous as today and that is why it is frowned upon by the rich and ‘classy’ high people of society. Hence video games are her way of escaping reality. Too bad sometimes I feel watching the relationship between Haruo and Oono is frustrating simply because the girl can’t speak and hence it is pretty much a guessing game with Haruo following his guts (it feels like a weird monologue because Haruo ‘speaking on her behalf’). Thus watching them can sometimes be a drag. You want them to get together but with the predicament they are in, looks like we’re in for a long ride.

Hidaka brings in the potential love triangle but watching her trying to get into Haruo’s heart also feels as painfully slow and draggy. Can’t blame her as she is new in the video game world and the only way to win Haruo’s heart is through the things he loves. So that would take time and we can see it pays off. However it also backfires because this only hurts Haruo’s pride as a gamer and because she failed to make her feelings clear from the start, the longer she drags this out, the more complicated it will get. So the question now is to see who gets to confess to Haruo first. Logically it would be Hidaka because you know, Oono can’t speak… Oh well, she could write but that would dampen and spoil the mood. Imagine confessing via writing down on a note instead of traditionally saying it with your mouth. What a downer. Finally she has spilled first blood with her confession so she’s not going down without a fight. Something I guess she learnt through video games. But I suppose the game of love and romance isn’t something one can learn from playing dozens of dating simulations either. Good luck to you youngsters. First one to Haruo’s heart wins!

As for the other characters, they don’t really bring much impact and feel like side distractions. Some aren’t bad like Miyao who is actually a good friend to Haruo but too bad about his short-lived romance for Oono. Friendship > Romance? Doi is annoying and I thought he would never return but he did. Handsome guy thinks he is a winner with his looks but I guess you can’t see what others see of you because he looks more like a loser. Besides, even his sparkles are dark! No wonder Oono doesn’t like flashy guys like him with no substance. In this comparison, Haruo is much better! Haruo’s mom is a funny character but I wonder if she would have ruined the chemistry between Haruo and the girls had she had more screen time. She gets her kicks seeing her son and a girl together. Probably better than her TV dramas. And there’s this one ugly ‘animal’ guy who often loses and resorts to attacking others for his own failure. There is always that one gamer guy like that. People, don’t be like this animal.

The first thing that will catch your eye are the visuals and animation. If I have to put a word to honestly describe it, that would be UGLY!!! Yeah, the way the characters are designed are ugly. I’m not sure if they took inspiration from Pop Team Epic because certainly the characters do remind me of that anime. Even the so called beautiful Oono and Hidaka are just barely passable. They just look so weird at certain angles! Had they been any uglier, they would have been like Onizuka. Yes, her character design feels like a total disaster and that in order to make Oono and Hidaka look ‘prettier’, this monster was designed as a comparison. Seriously. When I first looked at Numata, I wonder if they copied his design from a character from Virtua Fighter. Hey Lau, was this your job before you joined Virtua Fighter?

The other thing about the animation that I cannot seem to determine is whether or not this series is created entirely based on Flash. Because of the visual style, there are some moments whereby the animation looks like it is animated using CGI or Flash but at some other times, it would look like it was done via traditional 2D animation. I’m still confused and can’t really tell up till the end. Because if it was truly 100% Flash or CGI, it would have been so obvious and one kind like in some other series like that Bishoujo Yuugi Unit Crane Game Girls or JK Meshi. It is not so clear cut here (just like the same dilemma I had with God Eater) and since my lazy Google didn’t yield any results about whether it was done via CGI or Flash, I suppose it wasn’t. But I could be wrong because I read so many viewers comments how bad the CGI was. Ah well, looks like graphics in TV series still has a long way to go.

I thought the only place where we get to hear Oono’s voice is via the ending theme, Houkago Distraction by Etsuko Yakushimaru. Uhm… Sounds like a little loli girl singing her lines flat! Maybe that is why she doesn’t say a thing in the anime. Horrible? Well, the song sounds nice and cute and her voice makes it sound one kind. Oh, too bad Oono wasn’t voiced by Etsuko Yakushimaru but Sayumi Suzushiro. I guess with no proper lines, you can’t tell it’s her singing the ending song so I assume they’re the same person. The opening theme is New Stranger by Sora Tob Sakana. Though the song itself feels rather okay and suitable for this genre, I feel the voice of the singers unsuitable because in a way they sound flat and trying to keep up with the frenzy pace of the song.

For the voice acting department, Kouhei Amasaki as Haruo (Monoma in Boku No Hero Academia) does a good job in making his character sound boyish and like a raw gamer kid. His voice really fits the character well. Nice to hear Satomi Arai again as Haruo’s mom because it’s that cheeky voice that is her trademark of many of such characters like Shirai in To Aru Kagaku No Railgun, Hata in Seitokai Yakuindomo and the titular character in Yuri Seijin Naoko-san. There are a few other recognizable seiyuus as well such as Shizuka Itou as Gouda, Cho as Oono’s butler, Kana Ueda as Touno and Yuuichi Nakamura as Numata. Others like Hiroki Yasumoto as Guile and Norio Wakamoto as Vega also voice their counterparts in the recent instalments of their characters in the video game but I never really get to hear the original Japanese video game voices so it was a pleasant surprise for me. Other casts include Yuuki Hirose as Hidaka (Mana in Action Heroine Cheer Fruits), Kazuyuki Okitsu as Miyao (Hisui in K) and Daiki Yamashita as Doi (Midoriya in Boku No Hero Academia).

Overall, this series isn’t exactly bad per se but my nostalgia kept overwhelming me and my mind was thinking mostly about the old games I have played rather than focusing on the little sweet romance this anime has to offer in its dozen of episodes. Yeah, too much nostalgia from the good ol’ days is clouding my judgment for this series. If you’re a video game enthusiast, you would appreciate more while watching this series than non-video game background viewers. Ah yes, when times are so much simpler then with no technological advances spamming in your face and daily lives every single day. It would have been an ultimate fantasy dream come true for a geeky boy to marry a gamer girl back then. So Haruo, don’t waste that chance! If Oono was living in today’s era of games, she would have owned everybody in Overwatch, PUBG and Fortnite. Battlefield and Call of Duty. League of Legends and Dota. She would have dominated the eSports for years to come. Will gaming ever be the same again? But the love for gaming would always be the same.

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