Episode 7, “Cultural Festival 1” is the first of two parts following, well, Shikimori and Izumi’s school festival. It’s the second term, and things are in full swing as their class gets together scenery, costumes, and everything else you need to put on an animal-themed cafe. Yet not all is well: it’s immediately clear that Izumi is exhausted, and more prominently, Shikimori’s high-key not happy about not being able to spend time with her very good boy. It’s simple, it’s cute, and ultimately leads to another nice episode stuffed full of all the feel-good tropes that come with one of anime’s best genres.
Despite the title, however, the festival really isn’t the highlight of this episode, but the fact that we got to know how these two got together in the first place. Honestly, this is kind of what I’ve been waiting for ever since Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie started with Izumi and Shikimori already a couple.
It comes in the back half after some pretty chill story beats, and in a nice twist, it’s told by Izumi. I’d kind of expected to hear this story from Shikimori, but it’s actually much more romantic to hear Izumi talk about Shikimori because he so genuinely loves her and only has eyes for her. There’s no doubt in your mind that he is 100% genuine when he talks about just wanting to be around Shikimori in the past, and it’s all honestly so sweet.
There’s also the fact that he tells this to the first overtly queer character in the series, Kamiya, a sporty girl who gets paired with Izumi on library duty during the festival. Yes: like so many queer folks before her, Kamiya has fallen for a beautiful straight girl that she has no chance with. I feel for ya, Kamiya: I’ve fallen for many a het myself, and it aches because you just want that love for yourself.
The scene and story in question provides this interesting duality: Izumi is essentially telling his meet cute story (well, okay his getting together story, essentially) to a girl who’s equally in love with Shikimori. Yet Izumi and Shikimori’s getting together tale is told with such tenderness that you kind of can’t help but hope for a future where Izumi and Shikimori continue on, especially when said tale is so riddled with Izumi’s bad luck hiccups.
There’s something so indescribably touching about Shikimori and Izumi just being so genuinely into each other, especially in a genre where portrayals of courtship can be uncomfortably misogynistic (some, not all, because there’s a heck of a lot of good romcoms, but there’s definitely some stinkers). Izumi doesn’t have to neg Shikimori to get her to like him, and Shikimori doesn’t have to go full Tsundere Mode on Izumi. Instead, this is just the tale of two teens who are in love and who you’d like to see stay in love through the end of this cour and beyond. I like to think that Izumi and Shikimori will be a lifelong couple, high school sweethearts forever tethered together by these halcyon days.
I really, really enjoyed this episode: I like seeing just how much Shikimori and Izumi care for each other, how incredibly into one another they are, and just how deep the wellspring of their love goes. I like that Izumi is such a wife guy for Shikimori, and that they’ve chosen to spend their youth together. No matter where this story goes, I feel like it’s only up from here. Not everything has to be big and high-budget to be worth watching: there’s room for things like Shikimori that are just cute and pleasant and make you feel like hot cobbler inside, and y’all? I’m really glad to feel like hot cobbler this week.
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Mercedez is a JP-EN translation and localization light novel editor & proofreader/QA, pop culture critic, and a journalist who, when not writing for ANN, writes for Anime Feminist, where they’re a staff editor. They’re also a frequent cohost on the Anime Feminist Podcast, Chatty AF. This season, they’re falling in love with Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie and A Couple of Cuckoos. When they’re not writing and reviewing, you can find them on their Twitter or on their Instagram where they’re always up to something.