We LOVE Koisenu Futari!

Part two continued from last week of the Aromantic, Asexual representation in Koisenu Futari! A perfect ending to an unbelievably beautiful series.


Courtney: Hello everyone and welcome back. We are here for part 2. Yes, that is right. Part 2. So if you have not listened to last week’s episode, highly recommend you do that lest you be confused that we’re jumping right into the middle of a story that we very much appreciate, and that is Koisenu Futari. So for those of you who are, for some reason, just joining us for the very first time in a part 2, I guess my name is Courtney. I’m here with Royce. And together, we are The Ace Couple, and we are on– What are we on? Are we at episode four? We covered the first three episodes of the show last week.

Royce: That’s right. We’re on episode four out of eight.

Courtney: Four out of eight. Let’s play, ‘Can The Ace Couple be brief and terse enough to get all of those episodes in– in one?’ More accurately, ‘Can Courtney say fewer words, please?’

Royce: I was gonna say, that was an odd use of we, instead of I.

Courtney: Hey! I get excited and I’m a very, very verbose person. That is why I talk into a podcast. That is why it takes me a very, very long time to craft tweets. Because I’m like, “How does anyone get any point across with so few words?”

Courtney: So let’s see, where do we pick up in this show on episode 4. So, last we left off, Takahashi fell down a flight of stairs. He had pretty good sense of humor about that, but he is quite injured now.

Royce: He did a pretty good fake out of the whole ‘hit my head, memory loss’ trope.

Courtney: Yes. [laughs] But oddly enough, the– at this point very creepy, imposing, stalker guy who caused this to happen in the first place acknowledges that this was kind of all his fault, and he wants to help and make it better. So against, I think, pretty much everyone’s wishes, he’s like, “I am moving in until you’re better.” Which is a choice. But he does that. And this is a guy who really, really still does not understand this whole relationship dynamic, this living situation. So he at several points will make comments like, “I don’t see how you’re any different than lovers.” Like, “You’re a man and a woman and you’re living together, you’re calling each other family.” And I just love how every time Takahashi’s just like, “Please don’t force your views on us.” [laughs] Like, it happens all the time. And that’s– it is a mood, dare I say.

Courtney: But this little injury, this little trip to the hospital, did also kind of spark something in Takahashi, where he realized, “Oh, what if I got hurt and Sakuko wasn’t right here to witness it?” So he asks her if he can basically add her as his emergency contact, at– at work, at the hospital, etc. And creepy dude, who just like, barged his way into these two people’s lives, is just like, “See! You’re adding each other as emergency contacts, you’re practically married!” Which, like, is it really that weird to have a non-family member as your emergency contact if you’re not married?

Royce: I think it’s abnormal for younger people to think about things like emergency contacts.

Courtney: Well, they aren’t younger, Takahashi’s fourty.

Royce: That’s true.

Courtney: And she’s, late twenties–

Royce: I guess–

Courtney: –if not early thirties.

Royce: In my experience, I can think of exactly one situation where, in my life– where it wasn’t like a partner that I was discussing this stuff with.

Courtney: I suppose. I mean, I have had non-family members as my emergency contact before. And I have been other people’s emergency contact before. So that just, I mean, maybe it’s because we’re all queer and not all of us have had, like, stable family relationship. So maybe that’s just way more common in queer communities than anything. But yeah. Or perhaps just the– maybe there’s cultural context I’m missing, but like, to me being someone’s emergency contact has like zero to do with marriage. But this is also a character who does a lot of what we talked about last episode, like, strategic overacting to keep the scenes interesting.

Royce: I don’t know for sure, because I haven’t talked to people about this, but I think my impression was for most people their emergency contacts are their parents until they’re married.

Courtney: Hmm. Interesting.

Royce: Or you know co-living, maybe fiance, before marriage, sort of thing.

Courtney: Yeah, sure. So while this guy is moved in and while Takahashi is recovering, Sakuko’s having an issue at work, too, because she has another sales project that she needs to work on that is pertaining to Christmas coming up. And in just doing, like, research for sales and other ads and events, she’s seeing a lot of, like, romantic Christmas stereotype things. So she’s like, once again, like, “I really don’t think I know what that means.” So she’s googling like, “What is love?” And again, finding really unhelpful answers. Like someone you always want to be around. And someone who you’d be sad if they died. Like, there are so many situations where you can be sad someone died and not be romantically involved with them. But that– those are the kind of just like blasé answers that you get when you ask people, like, what is love, what is romance. Because these are very abstract concepts, but moreover, not everyone experiences them in the same way and obviously not everyone experiences them, period.

Courtney: But you know for– for this episode, for as weird as I think it is that this guy just like stalked Sakuko, expects to be in a relationship with her despite her clearly not being into it, deciding to move in with them too despite them being like, “No, you– you don’t have to do that.” I do really like a lot of the back and forth that he and Takahashi have. Because he’ll say something just like, grotesque and absurd and Takahashi will just outright be like, “You’re disgusting.” And I like that. I like seeing people called on their shit. Even at one point, he’s like, “I’m the dominant type of person.” And Takahashi was like, “I don’t think that’s something you should be proud of.” [laughs]

Courtney: So good– good stuff. For as uncomfortable and unfortunate as that situation is, that’s the kind of thing that’s like, “I hate everything about the situation, but you turned it into good TV.” But also just like being there, and having– having Takahashi constantly calling him on all of his problematic views, this is definitely like where the beginning of the character growth for this person stems from.

Courtney: Because despite being quite obtuse at first, and almost willfully misunderstanding it at first, it starts to seep in and you begin to start seeing him at least trying to understand and getting more genuinely curious about it, rather than combative and trying to force his own views. But since Takahashi is injured, he has a– I think, some co-workers come over to just, like, wish him well and deliver some food. And by this point they had ordered pizza. So like the three of them are at home eating pizza. And I think that was even another point where dude was like, “This is the best pizza.” And Takahashi’s like, “Stop forcing your views on me. Simple pizza is better.”

Royce: Yeah, Takahashi always ordered Margherita pizza. And the other two were like, “Let’s get weird pizza.” Like pizza anarchy.

Courtney: [laughs] All the toppings! So, yeah. So these co-workers, they start making those weird comments, they obviously assume Sakuko is his girlfriend and they’re like, “I didn’t know you had such a cute girlfriend.” But then they start, like, way overstepping and criticizing her like, “Well, your girlfriend should be cooking you nutritious food.”

Royce: Wasn’t the younger co-worker implied to have a crush on Takahashi, at this point and previously in the series?

Courtney: Ah, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case. I don’t remember that specifically right now, but–

Royce: I think that’s where the comments are coming from.

Courtney: Yeah, kind of like, “I’m not outright saying that I’d be a better girlfriend, but… I’d be a better girlfriend. I’d cook you something nutritious.” But in some of those comments, and– I guess that would make sense if it was quite obvious that– that she was– she was into Takahashi, because Kazu– that his name? Okay, I’m still getting used to that because in my head he’s like, Creepy Guy. And then he became like a long-running character and I was like, “Oh no, I have to learn his name.” So, Kazu was asking her, like, “Aren’t you jealous of them? And they’re– They are just coming in and making these comments.” And she’s like, “No, why would I be jealous? And even, like, I don’t own Takahashi.” Which Kazu doesn’t get. He’s– he’s like, “Well, you know, if you’re family, and if you’re living together, and even though I don’t understand this situation…” The– the translation we had with the word they kept using was monopolized, like to monopolize someone. So I guess that could be equated to like, really strict, rigid monogamy. Like, not just monogamy but having like, bordering on like controlling levels over the actions of the other. Which is very toxic, in many situations, not just one like this.

Courtney: But she also has a moment where she was like, “I don’t even know if I know what that means, to monopolize someone.” So a lot more googling, a lot more unhelpful answers. But by the end of this episode, Kazu has finally been around them long enough, and seen them interact, and heard them talk, and been called on his shit on more than one occasion. So by the end of the episode, he outright says, “I finally understand you now. So if you’re going to build a family with someone without romantic feelings, why don’t you just do it with me?” So, it’s like, oh, buddy. You were so close! Oh, you were so close! Because man, that just– I don’t know what to tell you. That doesn’t work that way. And I don’t– I don’t mind at all that they did that, because that’s honestly also very realistic. There are some people who get, like, so obsessed with another person that they’re like, “Well, just tell me what I need to do and how we need to be, and it’ll happen.” And it’s very forced, it’s not organic whatsoever. Dare I say almost certainly doomed to fail. Because that’s just not how relationships should be fostered.

Courtney: But the way he reached this understanding, gave at least– at least the impression that he really does begin to understand that romance isn’t necessary, or experienced by everyone. He just doesn’t use that information correctly. And I do like Takahashi kind of goes on another one of his rants, right. He sort of asks Takahashi like, “You’re really not interested in anything more with Sakuko than this?” And Takahashi was like, “What more could you possibly need to be satisfied?” Like this is a good arrangement. And Kazu says, “Well, I’m starting to understand that this isn’t a typical romance story, but I think you two look good together.” And that’s when Takahashi asks him, which I like in contrast to all of Sakuko’s googling, he says, “Then I would ask what is romance.” Which is also a very fun exercise to ask people who don’t quite get aspec identities, because they don’t know! Guys, they don’t know the answer. They can’t give you an eloquent definition.

Courtney: And Kazu is a good illustration of this, because he’s quite awkward and he’s like, “Well, it’s– it’s to love each other and to express those feelings, and to kiss and other stuff.” It’s like, oh my gosh, he’s like, “That’s what makes you a couple. That’s what humans have been doing for centuries.” And oh, that was– that was the wrong thing to say to Takahashi. Because he knows, he’s thought about this a lot, he has done his research. He goes full lecture mode. He’s like, “Well, the diff– the definition of romance varies depending on the place and era. In fact, the Japanese word for romance was coined in the Meiji era.” Which, if you’re not familiar with Japanese eras, that’s probably more closely akin to, like, the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Like, late– mid to late Victorian 1800’s and then the first decade or so of the 1900s. So, Victorian/Edwardian is the Meiji era. So relatively recent in history, pertaining to that language.

Courtney: And Takahashi takes that further and says, “Before that, words with the same connotation as romance just didn’t exist, and that there are many theories about that. But you can’t force something that is constantly changing on all humans.” Oh… that’s a good line! Because it really is. The idea of what is and is not romantic has changed, even in the span of my lifetime, especially since the 1800s. When, oh, the 1800s, like, romance culture was very, very high. And I also just like how Kazu was very much, like, “Wow, you must have graduated from a top university.” Like, “You– you’ve done so much research and you’re so smart.” And Takashi is like, “No, I went to a trade school for agriculture.” It’s like, “No, I don’t have a higher degree. I am just queer.” [laughs] Because if your experience fits into the norm you don’t have to think and challenge it constantly. But if you do break from the norm, there’s a lot of personal introspection and observation of greater society that I think a lot of us in the LGBTQIA+ community can relate to.

Courtney: But on to episode 5. Sakuko’s kind of shaken up by this guy saying, like, “Well, if you can have a relationship and build a family without romance, do it with me instead of Takahashi.” And she’s, she’s all confused and flustered. So she tries to call her long-term friend, Chizuru, and– hasn’t spoken to her since they decided not to live together, and finds out that her phone number was disconnected. So she goes to the salon, the hair salon where she worked and there she learns that she doesn’t even work there anymore and that she moved away, out of town. And so that’s where things get very interesting, because they actually go to try to find her. So they travel. I wasn’t super clear on how far of a distance this was, but did they go by plane or train? Do you remember?

Royce: I don’t, I assume train.

Courtney: They were like packing bags and seeing sites. So it was like a vacation kind of a distance, which I have very little concept of from other countries also. Because I grew up in the Midwestern United States, we drive very long distances and don’t think twice about it. That’s just kind of our culture.

Royce: That’s true. You’ve talked to some people from Europe who are like, “Your State’s as long as my country is.”

Courtney: Yes! Well, it was funny because when I was teaching a workshop at an academic conference in Winchester. I was born– Well, I was born in Florida, but I grew up in South Dakota and now I live in Kansas. So growing up in South Dakota, I was right next to Minnesota. Like, Minneapolis was the biggest most interesting city in proximity to us, but that is a multiple hour drive. Like, people would try to get it down to four. Like, “Let’s, let’s get to Minneapolis in four hours.” Like, we can do it if we don’t stop a lot. But that was like nothing, driving that far was like nothing. And even when I met you, and you lived in Kansas, like driving down to Kansas was– what is that drive? It’s been so long since I’ve taken it. Like, six hours?

Royce: It’s something like that.

Courtney: Six and a half, maybe. It’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s not bad. I’ll just– I’ll just drive down no big deal.” So when I actually met someone who lived in Minneapolis, while I was in Winchester, so to us it’s like, “Uh, Minneapolis! Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Well, hello! We are neighbors.” And we really hit it off and we were like, “Oh, maybe we can hang out one of these weekends. And yeah, I can just drive up to Minneapolis, no big deal.” And all of the Brits around the table with us were just giving us this very confused look, and they’re like, “A four-hour drive, you are not neighbors.” And we’re like, “Yes, we are. It’s like four hour is– is neighborly.” Because our country is massive. So to even just live two States next to each other, like we got an interstate, we got cars, no big deal will just pop up there.

Courtney: But whatever the distance was, they travel, they go to try to find this friend. And here’s where things get very interesting, because Kazu is still very much hoping that Sakuko is going to pick him. Takahashi is not really pressing it either way. He’s also kind of taking the stance like, “This is your decision, and I don’t own you.” Kind of a– kind of a mentality. And Sakuko just feels a little bit lost and wants to talk to her friend about it. But we find out why the friend just disconnected her phone number and moved away without any warning.

Royce: As well as why the outburst they had in the restaurant happened.

Courtney: Yes. Because that seemed very odd and out of character when it happened. But now we find out that she had actually developed romantic feelings for Sakuko. And while they were apartment shopping, and they found their perfect place, and Sakuko kept calling it their castle, and they were embracing and– and thinking about how great their lives are going to be here. It got to be a little too much for Chizuru, because she knew that Sakuko was not going to be able to reciprocate the same feelings that she was feeling. So they have that conversation and they cry a lot. Sakuko doesn’t really understand why they can’t have a relationship in the way they used to. But she’s kind of told like, “Hey, we can’t be the way we used to be.” Like, “I can’t handle that.” Which is also something that I’ve never understood. I have definitely had friends who have developed a different set of feelings than I have for them, and when it’s clear that there isn’t going to be any kind of dating, or romance, or certainly not a sexual relationship of any kind, they’ll just be like, “Welp. Guess we can’t be friends anymore.” And that sucks. That really, really sucks when that happens.

Courtney: And so I could definitely relate to Sakuko who wasn’t understanding that, because I have also never understood that. But I think having that moment, did at least give her a little more clarity with her situation with Kazu. Because she at least understands that Kazu is feeling something that she cannot reciprocate, and that that is not going to be good for either of them. So she definitely, like, hard breaks it off. She’s like, “That is not going to happen. I’m going to keep my life with Takahashi as it is because it’s not fair to you. I can’t give you what you want.” And really in kind of just an epic level of character development, he outright tells her not to blame herself. He admits that he also hurt her and apologized for hurting her, and said that he didn’t regret anything, and basically that they can still be friends. Which is something I really needed for her because I was going to be really sad if just every single person in her life, who has developed feelings for her, just like hard cuts her off, because she didn’t ask for that.

Courtney: That– that’s not fair to her. Like, I’m glad she still has Takahashi, but my girl’s allowed to have friends too. So of course, it’s already helpful to have two different aroaces who are in, you know, slightly different experiences on the spectrum, who are in different stages of learning about themselves and their identities. So that helps to establish for any viewers, who this is brand new information, to get a better taste of that. But there are a couple other things that the show does to try to take that a step further. The first one was something we’d mentioned in the last episode, where Takahashi gave an asexuality quiz, so he could understand sort of Sakuko's place in the spectrum and how she felt about certain things. And the second was Sakuko actually attending an Ace meet-up briefly, and that’s where we find ourselves in episode 6. So maybe before we go into the Ace meet-up, maybe we can talk a bit about that quiz, because we did try to find a translation of that and I believe, Royce, you have something.

Royce: Yeah, I found a translated version that included Sakuko’s answers once she had filled most of it out. And the types of questions that are on it are things like: Do you think you have romantic feelings? Have you ever wanted to or thought about dating a specific person? Have you ever wanted or thought about “monopolizing” – in quotes – a particular person? I think that’s a word that’s a bit difficult to translate.

Courtney: Yeah, that was brought up in dialogue a couple of times in the last episode.

Royce: Another is, “Have you ever found other sexually attractive?” And at this point, for all of those questions Takahashi’s and Sakuko’s answers align, both saying no or not much on all of those. But then they start to diverge at questions like: Do you have a dislike for romantic feelings directed at you? Do you hate touching other people? Do you hate being asked about your love story by others? Do you hate being asked about your sexual story by others? Do you hate listening to other people’s romantic stories, or do you hate listening to other people’s sexual stories? And in those they diverge, with Takahashi generally disliking all of that and Sakuko being more indifferent to it.

Courtney: Yeah, that sounds about right.

Royce: And a comment on that Reddit post, near the bottom was just, “Takahashi is a mood.”

Courtney: And, I mean, he is though. If there was one word I could use to describe Takahashi, it would be… a mood.

Royce: That’s two words.

Courtney: Listen… If I could pick two words to describe Takahashi, it would be A Mood. Is that better, Royce? Are you quite satisfied now?

Royce: Yeah, we can move on now.

Courtney: [laughs] So aside from what we got in dialogue, what was flashed on the screen for those of you who can read that language – we could not, that’s why we had to find a translation of it – that’s one additional layer showing the spectrum. And I wouldn’t necessarily say that Sakuko going to this meet-up necessarily showed more of the spectrum, so much as it showed more ways to be. More ways to exist. More lifestyle structures. Which is very important. And is often different than your actual orientation, because there can be two aromantic asexual people who lead completely different lives, who have completely different relationship structures. So I think the representation of all of those areas being diversified is very important. And I did like when she goes to this meet-up, there’s a little Ace flag and a little Aro flag sitting, like, in a cup by the front desk at– whatever, I don’t know if it was like a community center or a library, some kind of public venue.

Courtney: And she talks to a bunch of different people. She talks to a romantic asexual who is eagerly talking about his plans to move in with his partner after University. She talks to someone who is questioning whether or not she’s aroace. She’s not sure yet, she’s learning more about herself. She learned that some aces get married. She learns about all these different relationship structures. And some of it kind of breezes through in passing, but she also talks to two women who are partners but they don’t live together. And just in passing, I thought that was really great because people don’t always talk about that. Because even in aromantic and/or asexual relationships, usually in a relationship, even queerplatonic types, living together is still kind of assumed to be the norm. But I personally know some people who are partners who don’t live together. I even know straight married couples who are still married and very much in love, but have their own places. So, I think that’s getting a little bit more common, like, 20 years ago that was probably not– not very common. Unless one person moved for work, and they’re planning on living together again somehow, but they’re just working out logistics. But still not super common and we don’t have a lot of representation for living arrangements like that. So I thought that was neat just to mention, but we’re also gonna put a pin in that for a moment.

Courtney: So, she comes home later, and both Kazu and her sister, along with her sister’s child, are all just, like, at the house. They have all come uninvited and separately.

Royce: And Takahashi is somewhat distraught. He’s like, “They just came in one after another.”

Courtney: Yes. [laughs] And Kazu’s like, “I have a key.” And he’s like, “Please give your key back.” So they’re– they’re all here and they’ve all barged in. And we learned that the– her sister is here because she found out that her husband cheated on her. And she just starts talking about it very, very openly, very nonchalantly. But her young daughter is right there, and it’s actually Takahashi who is the one who’s like, “Hey, maybe you want to save this conversation for later?” And does like a very pointed look at the child. Which I think is cool, that’s sort of the first moment where we see, in a series of moments, where Takahashi is very caring of and sensitive toward this child, or children in general. Because there’s also kind of an assumption that, like, aroace people just, like, hate kids and I don’t like that. Some of them do, actually. Some of them do hate kids, and I don’t like that either.

Royce: Some people in general don’t like kids.

Courtney: Some people in general don’t like kids. And you don’t have to want to have your own kids to be respectful of children. Because children are young people. And not everyone is cut out to be a parent, not everyone wants to be a parent or caretaker of a child, but some people do genuinely like and care for kids, even if they don’t want their own. And that’s a very weird thing for some people to wrap their head around. Because they’re still also kind of this societal notion that if you don’t have kids you’re selfish, which is weird to me. It’s really weird because, I guess, the logic is either in a religious context where, like, “It’s your religious duty to have kids and so if you don’t you’re being selfish.” But there’s also a more, like, secularized version of the same ideal, that’s just like, “Well, you just want all your time to yourself. You want to be able to do whatever you want and live your own life, and isn’t that awfully selfish?”

Royce: I feel like a lot of times when people use the word selfish they’re actually just like misdirecting jealousy.

Courtney: Ooh… spicy!

Royce: Like, it’s wanting to live your life the way that you want to isn’t selfish…? That’s freedom…

Courtney: Ooh… spicy!

Royce: But– but being like, “Oh, I decided to have a family and have kids and now I’m reaching, like, that midlife crisis. Like, what am I doing with my life? How do I have fun again?” kind of thing. And then, “I see my unmarried, like, childless friends having all this fun.”

Courtney: Well, you know that’s interesting because when– some people do just intrinsically want to be parents and that’s not a bad thing. But when people talk about, like, when I hear like a childless couple talk to a couple who does have kids, and the conversation turns into like, “Well, you’re selfish if you don’t have kids.” Like if you ask, like, what reason would I have to have kids? Most of those reasons I would consider to be selfish. Like, “Oh, it gives your life meaning. It’s a level of love you’ll never experience otherwise.” And–

Royce: Right, you’re using another life to feel better.

Courtney: “Who’s going to take care of you when you get old?”

Royce: “Who’s gonna mow the lawn for you?”

Courtney: [laughs] Oh… We got gnomes for that. We don’t need kids.

Royce: But yeah, I mean even liking having a family, and liking having kids, and agreeing with all those decisions, it’s still a lot of work!

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: And you could still, like, not have any regrets, but still look at another person and be envious of their free time.

Courtney: That’s true. That’s true! Because yeah, I– personally I love kids, I love teaching kids, I love hanging out with kids. I do think that if you blanketly say, “I hate all children”, I do think that’s a type of bigotry and I think a lot of it is rooted in ableism. We just– I just felt like 20% of our listeners try to cancel us. I’m sorry! But it’s true! And we need to talk about it! They’re young humans who don’t have the same mental and emotional structure, and knowledge, and experience that you do. And it’s perfectly valid if you say, like, “Oh, I don’t like the sound of screaming, I don’t like the sound of crying.” And yes, kids are more likely to start screaming and crying in public than adults are, but so are some fully grown people with certain disabilities. So gotta examine that a little bit.

Royce: So are certain fully grown adults with certain political ideations.

Courtney: Well, we’re allowed to hate those ones. [laughs] But it’s this othering of children, right? It’s this, like, dehumanizing language that’s used for them. Like, you’ll have people online be like, “I don’t want to have to deal with your crotch goblins or your fuck trophies.” It’s like, “I don’t care if they’re very young, I don’t care if they’re still learning and growing into personhood” Like that– that– that is– that is– that is still a human. That is a small human that you’re talking about. And if you’re taking an entire segment of the population and just being like, “I hate all of them,” on the basis of their age, or their intelligence, or their emotional regulation capabilities, whatever it is that you’re using to justify hating all kids… I’m sorry I think you should examine that a little more. I do! I do. But all this to say, I love the at least the concept of ‘it takes a village’ because even if you aren’t directly in charge of helping to raise or take care of a child, if most of the adults a child interacts with when they’re young are just, like, outright hostile to them. How are they going to grow up to be emotionally healthy? I ask you. Like, don’t be rude to kids just because they’re kids.

Courtney: So, I like that even though it is revealed that Takahashi does not want children, it shows him being really sensitive to the needs of children. And in fact, he’s the only one here. This– this kid’s mother is not thinking about the repercussions of bad-mouthing her father right in front of her at a very young age. But Takahashi, who is an onlooker, who by all intents and purposes doesn’t have any relationship to this child, is like, “You want to rethink that.”

Royce: Takahashi also had some parental trauma. What was the story with his parents? Did they just leave?

Courtney: We didn’t get the full story. He did say that his parents abandoned him. It was implied that it was young. He did mention that his grandmother is the one who has always raised him and that he’s always lived in this house. So, I don’t know if this was, like, grandma raised him from infancy. I don’t know if he was just a young child, I don’t know the exact circumstances. Unless there was just a– something missed in translation, I don’t think he got very detailed about it. But there were definitely signs a couple of different times that parents out of the picture, have been for a long time.

Royce: Unfortunately, this show is small enough that it’s– I found it very difficult to actually search back and try to find, like, character bios and things that we may have missed.

Courtney: Yeah. We don’t have, like, really extensive like Wikis or anything, and a lot of the additional information or the added translations we’re finding are, like, on fan blogs on Reddit. So we are very grateful to those folks who do that for us. But for as much as this mother, Sakuko’s sister, is making some, like, questionable choices in the way she’s talking about this, she’s clearly very hurt. She has been cheated on, that’s not cool, her husband sucks. She does make one point that I really like, and I like that it came from her because– there’s sort of a board game out in front of her and it wasn’t The Game Of Life, but it seemed similar.

Royce: It seemed like– I don’t know, with how old that game is, if there are licensing issues. It seemed very similar, very reminiscent of it.

Courtney: Very, very similar concept. So it was a board game like that, and she said that that’s how real life feels, that you’re playing this game and you’re moving forward one space at a time: you get married, you become pregnant, you buy a house, you have a second kid. And she felt a little lost and trapped with that. Because for a while that felt good for her, and she was enjoying that, but now that future, that order in which you do things seems very uncertain, because she always expected that she’d have her husband with her. And now he’s cheated and she doesn’t know if they can stay together. So, that does kind of become a moment where you’re wondering what your future is going to look like. Because you thought it was all planned out, but things didn’t go that way. So I like that that came from her because that is amatonormativity. And that is compulsory sexuality. That is this societal ideal of what the default life is and what your life should be, and what it should look like.

Courtney: And having this normative view of things, this cisheteronormative view of things no less, disproportionately affects queer people. And amatonormativity especially, and compulsory sexuality, disproportionately affects aroaces, aro and/or aces. But it also harms just, like, everyone. Even if that life sounds good to you, it still might be the right answer, but I think it’s good for people to be exposed to other options and other lifestyles, and to just have choices. And maybe that’s a bit of why some people are resentful of childless adults. Because perhaps they did not feel like they had a choice. They felt like it was expected. And if that’s the case, that sucks. They should have never felt that way. That’s why when we try to break down all of these normative societal structures it benefits everyone. It’s not just us in the queer community. Having a broader idea of different ways of being is always good because, you know, free will and freedom of choice, and all that good stuff that we like. And again goes back to Takahashi’s “Don’t force your views on me.”

Courtney: So for as much as I love that that point came from her to just sort of illustrate how damaging it can be to all kinds of people, she also gets way out of line. And she’s clearly experiencing heartbreak but she had no right to then look at Sakuko and say, “Well, your life is so easy, because you’ll never get hurt like this.” And, like, ruminating, “I wonder what it would be like to lead such an empty life.” Awful! Horrible. And again in an epic level of character development, Kazu is actually the one who calls her out on that, and he’s like, “That is out of line. How dare you?” And she does apologize but it– that was icky. Her husband eventually comes in and he is pleading not to get a divorce. And then they start fighting and yelling at each other back and forth. Again it’s Takahashi who’s like, “Hey, not in front of the kid.”

Courtney: But then in all of the stress of that, of course, her water breaks. So they go to the hospital, hers and Sakuko’s parents end up coming, and they seem a little taken off guard that Takahashi is there at the hospital with him. He actually had, like, taken off his coat and put it over this little girl who was sleeping on the bench. And just a moment that I thought was very sweet, like, won’t someone think of the children, it’s Takahashi. Taki– Takahashi is the one who is looking out for the child. Of course, having your water break and getting cheated on, and yelling and arguing about divorce, like all at once, is a lot to have to deal with, but it’s nice that there’s someone there who is looking out for the kid in all of this. Who, poor kid, she is probably going to need to do a therapy about these last couple of days when she gets older. Or maybe she’ll just have uncle Takahashi, I don’t know. But yeah, the parents seem a little uncomfortable but they do end up apologizing to Takahashi for being rude last time.

Courtney: And after her sister delivers the baby, of course Sakuko goes and holds the baby, she asks Takahashi if he wants to hold her, to which he declines. But– But he is smiling. He’s grinning, he looks happy. He says, “Oh, she’s so cute.” But he still declines to hold her, and I think that’s cool. I think that is a really cool, unique scene. Because you do not have to want to hold the child. That does not mean you have to hate the child. I never see any in between. I– Like, I don’t. Takashi doesn’t like touching people, that has been well established, that seems to extend to children. That is valid for him. That is okay. But we never really see people who, like, have their boundaries, maintain and enforce their boundaries, but also still, like, care and can still be a part of that moment, and be happy and supportive of everyone involved. Because honestly, I don’t know how often you’ve seen this, either in real life or in media, but I’ve seen it a fair few times where someone’s like, “Oh, do you want to hold the child?” And they are like, [spitefuly] “No, I hate kids.” Like… Why would you say that? Why would you say that aloud? Especially when, usually, the parent or another family member of that kid is like present.

Royce: Yeah, like other children.

Courtney: And other children!

Royce: Siblings.

Courtney: Siblings!

Royce: Yeah, you can just leave the latter part off. I decline holding kids consistently, and no one says anything about it.

Courtney: Yeah, and like that’s the thing too. It’s like do you hate kids or do you hate physical contact. Do you hate kids or do you hate, like, being overstimulated by noises? Do you hate kids or do you hate not feeling in control, and you don’t know how to communicate with kids? Like–

Royce: Are you concerned about getting spit up on and don’t want to worry about that right now?

Courtney: Why are you blaming the kids? Because again, that’s a human– that is a human! But in this scene, which I think is very neat to have depicted, Takahashi does have a flashback. And in this flashback we see a woman who is saying, “Oh, when we become a couple, aren’t our babies going to be cute?” And another flashback where she’s also holding a baby and is asking him if he wants to hold the baby. And then going down that continued sort of timeline, he also has a flashback of Sakuko when she first asked him to be her family, and sort of juxtaposing something mysterious from his past with whatever’s blossoming now. So now it’s time for takahashi’s relationship history. Because we already heard Sakuko’s.

Courtney: On to episode 7. So episode 7, Sakuko’s still kind of fretting about a work project and, as sort of inspiration if you will, Takahashi lends– lends her some… um, some magazines. Like vegetable magazines, are they specifically farming magazines? I suppose would make more sense.

Royce: That would make more sense, yeah. Vegetable farming.

Courtney: Yeah. So she starts flipping through this and sees an article about a woman who started her own farm, has all these– this fresh vegetable business. And that kind of gives her inspiration and she wants to meet this woman and see, “Hey, maybe our companies can work together.” And just learn more about this operation, and Takahashi starts acting a little weird when he finds that out. Because as it turns out, he has a history with that woman.

Royce: That just happens to be the woman from the recent flashback.

Courtney: Gasp!

Royce: It’s as if this is a short form drama series or something, with a limited cast of characters.

Courtney: [laughs] It’s almost as if that. So he doesn’t outright come out with that information. We see some flashbacks. We see Sakuko talking to this woman. But Sakuko’s out of the loop for– for a lot of this episode. But in these flashbacks, what we sort of learn– he seems to be really happy with her presence, really enjoys hanging out with her. They really hit it off, and he just seems happy, smiling a lot. And seems to have a great desire to be around her more. There was one really brilliant line. Because he was planting something in a pot and she was just sort of sitting nearby while he was doing this, and he just says, “Humans evolved wrong.” He’s like, “Why can’t we reproduce like this?” As he’s like playing with seeds. [laughs] I like that very much. I really do. And honestly Takahashi, I agree. Humans did evolve wrong. We evolved to have the worst means of procreation. I would say, personally, as a sex repulsed asexual.

Courtney: And he didn’t even seem too taken aback when she said, you know, “Let’s become a couple.” And when she said, aren’t–, like, “We’re going to make really cute kids.” Nothing on his face demonstrated that he was immediately opposed to that idea. So it almost sort of seemed like he was maybe considering it at one point, or didn’t quite know where he felt in that issue. But when things got a little more serious, and she started talking about actually getting married, she brought out some of her family’s rings – like family heirloom, wedding band, kind of rings – and that kind of seemed like the end. He definitely felt like this was not right for him. You see him really struggling holding this ring box, and not really knowing what to say or how to act.

Courtney: But by the end of the episode he does reconvene with her, present day. And this is because Sakuko kind of figures things out, and she talks to this other woman and is like, “Hey, you know Takahashi, right?” And this woman knew Takahashi’s grandmother, so she asked how she was doing and so Sakuko had the very upsetting job of telling her that she died. Originally, when the series started, it was six months ago. It’s not very clear how long they have been living together at this point. So, over six months I imagine. And she was quite upset by this and she wants to offer incense at her altar. So she ends up coming over to Takahashi’s home, and they start talking together. And it’s been a long time since they have spoken to each other. But I think– did they actually meet in agriculture school? Was that stated?

Royce: I can’t remember. I can sort of see the scene when she walked up to Takahashi’s house for the first time, and saw him, like, outside the house starting to do some gardening. But I can’t remember if they knew each other before then or not.

Courtney: I want to say they did, but I’m not sure. Either way she knows that he loves gardening, he loves vegetables. At one point, he tells Sakuko that when he was a kid his dream was to live in a vegetable kingdom. [laughs] So whether or not they actually met in school, or if they both had the same occupational aspirations, she very much knew about that. And she actually tells him by the end of this episode, “Hey, you know, I know this has always been your dream, and I think I know a good opportunity for you.” Where there was sort of a patch of farmland that he could cultivate and essentially take over. And it seemed to be running his own business, if he took up taking care of the land.

Royce: Yeah, it wasn’t super clear because it was a– I feel like it was a large communal plot of land where maybe, maybe each individual, like, owned a slice of it, or something like that.

Courtney: It was some kind of program. She’s like, “I know about this program where…” Yeah, that might have been one where maybe that particular scene didn’t have the best translation, so we might have missed a couple of the finer details of what this program was. But he immediately turns her down. He’s like, “No.” And then episode 8, our final episode of this beautiful series. Sakuko is confused as to why he did not take the job. And he gets really defensive when she asks him about why. He’s like, “Oh, what do you want this family to end? Do you want this family to be over?” And she’s like, “Well, no.” And he’s like, “Then this conversation is over.” And we rarely see Takahashi get this passionate about things, unless he’s going on one of his little mini rants in the garden, or about romance. Like, being that short with someone else is– is a bit out of character for him. So she’s like, “Oh, okay, I’ll– I’ll drop it for now.”

Courtney: Sakuko has a couple of conversations to resolve some things with both her mother and her sister. Because her sister was very much like, “Oh, well does Takahashi want kids? Do you want kids?” So she resolves that by talking to her sister and say, “Yeah, we talked about it, he doesn’t want kids and I don’t either.” She has sort of a final conversation with her mother, who– her mother has now started to come around things a little more and seems quite a bit more supportive. But then she goes to Takahashi and she tells him that he should have his vegetable kingdom. And she kind of just confronts him. And she’s like, “Why shouldn’t you get to have this?” And he confesses that he wants their family to stay together, and he wants to protect his grandmother’s house. But taking this opportunity would involve moving away. And even though he’s kind of having issues at his current job, I mean, he worked at the grocery store. He was content in produce, but he also kind of got, like, moved to a different department, kind of got a promotion.

Royce: They’re giving him more and more responsibilities and are positioning to, I think, eventually promote him to like manager of the store.

Courtney: Yeah. Which he’s not into, because he’s–

Royce: He would– he would no longer work with his vegetables and he would have to interact with people more.

Courtney: Yeah! And he likes vegetables more than people! [laughs] So even though it’s like, “Oh, promotion, that should be good.” He’s like, “No, this sucks.”

Royce: Yeah, he only took that job in the first place because it was close to home and involved vegetables.

Courtney: Yes. Exactly. So, especially knowing this and having heard this from him, Sakuko’s like, “I don’t understand, like, this is your dream job, you should do it.” But in this very endearing moment, he is like, “No, I care about this house, I care about you. I am happy with this life we have started building together and I don’t want to ruin that.” And so she suggests that he take the job, they continue to be a family, and she stays in his grandmother’s house while he moves away to go have his vegetable kingdom. And he, like, this scene gave me chills and made me cry a little bit. Because Takahashi’s starts crying. Like, he tears up. And he is just, like, surprised, baffled. He is verklempt, he’s speechless. He’s like, “You mean, we can stay a family and you’ll take care of my grandmother’s house, and I can go do this?” And he’s like trying to figure out how this all works, but it’s like this never even occurred to him as an option.

Courtney: And I think the only reason why it occurred to her as an option is because she went to that meet-up, and she met a couple who are partners who are there for each other, who said like, oh, if– if one of them needs anything they call the other and they take care of each other, but they don’t live together. So she was exposed to another couple that had a lifestyle like this. And it certainly didn’t occur to Takahashi. And she is so much newer to learning about this, you know, aroace identity. And he has a couple of concerns, he asked a couple of questions about how is this gonna work. But he’s overall just, like, revelatory. It’s such a beautiful scene.

Courtney: And then we have a flashback to one year later, where they are talking on the phone. She is still reading every single one of the blogs that he posts. He sends her vegetables, and she is trying to learn how to cook them. It shows her making cabbage rolls from cabbage that he sent her. And it’s very sweet and they both seem so happy. It shows him, you know, eating a potato in his field on his break, and it sees him farming with his vegetables. And he seems so content. She says in her head, or in narration, that her life is good every day. She has fun, she’s satisfied with the relationship that she and Takahashi have. And she says, “Even though some don’t like it and some don’t understand it, I’m satisfied with this.” Which is just beautiful. It’s just beautiful. And I think they could have probably ended it on just, like, really sweet moments like that. And– and– and showing the two of them, you know, talking and texting and enjoying their lives. Like, still family but not living together, there’s distance but there’s still very much mutual care. But they don’t, they had– they had to end it on something a little silly, and– and give a nonsense little call back to the first episode. She’s having lunch with– it must have been Kazu again, because they work at the same place.

Royce: And they maintained their friendship as well.

Courtney: They did, which is very good and I like that. Yeah, she’ll be sending, like, a selfie of the two of them to Takahashi, and Takahashi will be like, “Look at this cabbage.” Like, it showed some of their texting back and forth. So, they’re all in touch. And they’re having lunch together, and a co-worker comes up and is like, “I knew it. You two are dating.” And the older boss from that very first episode, who is the first one to say, “After all there’s no one who can’t fall in love.” He steps up and he’s like, “Oh, you have to stop thinking that way.” And then Kazu was like, “Yes! You finally understand.” And he, like, jumps up and hugs him. And he’s like, “You finally understand that there’s more to life than love!” [laughs] It’s like, all right. It was so cheesy but it was– it was just camp enough that I was like, “All right, I’ll allow it.”

Royce: It wasn’t the cheese we wanted but it was the cheese we deserve?

Courtney: It was the cheese we got. [laughs] It was– I can’t speak highly enough about this entire series. I thought it was brilliant. I thought it was beautiful. It is the– is it the best aroace rep that we have ever consumed? I want to say that it is.

Royce: It is certainly the most comprehensive. Or it’s the show that had the most focused– because even, I mean, Todd Chavez from BoJack Horseman was not aroace.

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Royce: But he was still one character in a large cast of characters with a large plot going on.

Courtney: Yes. Which– he also attended meet-ups. So we did have other minor characters who were teaching him about the spectrum and walking him through learning about himself. So we got that but it wasn’t as like–

Royce: But–

Courtney: –immersive.

Royce: In terms of screen time, he was one out of–

Courtney: many.

Royce: –many central, primary characters in that show.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: And here you have– the entire story revolves around this.

Courtney: Yes, and it was done very well. And I love it. We have a man, we have a woman. They’re both aroace. They have lightly different experiences on the spectrum. They end up forming a relationship that is beautiful, it is satisfying. It takes a turn that you don’t really expect, because I think if you just told the average person like, “Oh, this show is about a couple who move in together in like episode 2, but by episode 8 they move apart. One of them moves away.” Most people would be like, “Well, that’s a sad story.” And it’s like, no! It doesn’t have to be! This works for them, and it’s still a very happy story. So you still have sort of a twist that maybe you weren’t expecting and just so many areas of much-needed representation. I loved it!

Courtney: And you know what I also love? I love the ridiculous nonsensical music video for the title song. We found that while looking through the subreddit for Koisenu Futari. Someone posted the full music video and they’re in just like full pink, like, pajama onesies that also have, like, full gloves for some reason. And they’re holding up masks of, like, fake smiles and just have these wild haircuts. And I would like to officially recommend that be the officially designated aroace uniform. It was also fun to just listen to the whole song and get it with English subtitles. Because the lyrics actually do fit really, really well with the show, which is not something I knew as a casual viewer.

Courtney: So on that note, it is probably all for today. If you have a bit of aroace rep, or aromantic rep, or asexual rep, that you think is on par with this, feel free to let us know. You can shoot us an email, tweet at us @The_Ace_Couple. We may or may not review it in an upcoming episode. But we do recommend giving this a watch, if you have not been able to do so already, because it is very, very good. And as always, thank you so much for being here and we will talk to you all next week.