Shimoneta – 05

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Shimoneta does not hold back (no pun intended) on the continuing unfortunate results of Anna’s accidental first arousal by Okuma; she is absolutely out of control from start to finish, frightening due to the strength of her convictions (read: delusions), yet also a profoundly tragic figure; a walking, talking, drooling example of everything wrong with her mother’s hardline stance against sex education.

Her mother has kept her bottled up all this time, and now the flood gates are open. Yet so ignorant is she to the basic biology of sex, Anna refers to her discharge as “love nectar”, first mixing it in the dough for cookies made specially for Okuma, then trying to get him to drink it straight from a  bottle where she’s been collecting it. Anna’s complete inability to cope with her lust has turned her into a dribbling, chain link fence-cutting psycho.

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All the while, Anna is apparently lucid enough to keep this erratic behavior secret from her mother, who either trusts her daughter enough not to stick her nose in her business (pretty hypocritical, considering how evasive X Prohibition will be to the rest of the Japanese youths) or she’s simply too busy with the PR campaign to bother noticing Anna melt down.

Public Morals begins a crackdown on the school specifically to dissuade students from storming Yotsuga Forest where the porn stash is believed to be located. Yet Ayame goes anyway, willing to storm the place on her own, no matter the consequences, as a matter of principle, and in hopes she’ll inspire others.

Her suicide mission is interrupted by the cavalry: Fuwa Hyouka found Otome’s lewd drawings Okuma dropped in her lab when Anna was chasing him, and she distributed them to the student body, which came to the forest en masse. She uses all the boys as a diversion against the morality cops, and sends the girls in.

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Sophia’s rally at her daughter’s school is ruined, so Anna goes to the forest and locates both Blue Snow and Okuma (who is in a light disguise). Ayame orders Okuma to save himself, but even when he lands smack-dab in the Cave of Porn, he decides he’s not going to let Anna unmask and punish Blue Snow. He probably realizes the ideal life he imagined with Anna isn’t going to happen.

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He emerges wearing woman’s lingerie, and the sight of his package is enough to make Anna hysterical, as they used to say in olden times. Unaware it’s Okuma behind the pantymask, she’s so ashamed of her body reacting so intensely to another man, she literally jumps off a cliff and flies away, leaving a love nectar rainbow in her wake. That’s right, a love nectar rainbow. I sure didn’t see that coming!

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Even SOX are rendered bewildered and speechless, but at the end of the day, they successfully got all of their fellow students to storm the forest, and scored a huge haul of fresh and diverse porn with which Otome can be inspired to create an ever-richer catalogue of illustrations for distribution. They even manage to switch the signatures from other schools with those illustrations, and Sophia makes the mistake of holding one up without looking at it first while on a live nationwide broadcast with no tape delay.

It’s a huge coup for SOX, who were on the cusp of being wiped out, because the scandal essentially stops the X Prohibition Law in its tracks, as well as gets Sophia in trouble. Thinks are looking good for the ero-terrorists, but more challenges lie ahead, one of which is named Anna Nishikinomiya.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 05

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RnY really slammed on the brakes this week, finishing the job it started last week of bringing the story’s momentum to a screeching halt. What had been a thrilling, sprawling fantasy adventure tale is now stuck in a square room with a lame mystery, pacing around, tapping its foot; scratching its head, and yawning.

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I know; seven Braves when there should be six isn’t that bad a mystery. It’s more that the way the mystery is being investigated saps all of my interest. First we get another set of introductions, along with their stories of where they were when the barrier came up. We hear Adlet’s monologue as he sizes people and their stories up, but aside from learning Fremy is half-fiend (which is actually pretty interesting), we don’t learn much of note.

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From there, everyone starts chiming in with their ideas about what happened and who they suspect the seventh Brave to be. Now, I’m a big fan of 12 Angry Men, but they were a jury deliberating a verdict; these guys are supposed to be legendary heroes kicking ass and saving the world. The fact that they’re holed up in this room pointing fingers at each other for an entire episodes diminishes their splendor along with our patience. When Chamo yawned, I said to myself “You and me both, kid!”

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Thankfully, the seven do eventually get somewhere, though I’m not yet satisfied with where that is: Hans (whose cat-speak and constant cackling is really annoying, BTW) says once the temple doors open they cannot be closed, calling into question Adlet’s story about having to blow the door open, which immediately preceded the activation of the barrier. Even though Fremy is in chains, Hans seems on the cusp of turning everyone against Adlet.

Yet we witnessed what Adlet did, from start to finish, and at worst, he activated the barrier accidentally. He doesn’t work as the culprit, since we’ve been following him the whole time, before even Nashetania showed up. So unless the show itself was lying to us, he can’t possibly be the enemy.

Because the deliberation is far from over, it’s guaranteed that the Braves won’t be leaving this room for at least part of the next episode. Smoke if you got ’em…

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Working!!! 3 – 05

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While I like the fact that while trying to focus on work instead of obsessing over the meaning of Inami’s words last week has Souta cleaning the house so intensely that everything sparkles for the duration of the episode, this episode still felt a bit stretched-out and listless, tackling an issue that we’re no strangers to, but very much want to see more progress on rather than additional deliberation.

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That issue is Inami x Souta. Thirty-one episodes have aired without resolving this romance, and I’ll admit, I’m just about as exhausted by the will-they-won’t-they as Izumi is with activities like standing, talking, and being outside. Worse, nothing really new is added to the equation this week. Izumi simply gets the wrong idea and sets Inami and Souta on a blind date.

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Mind you, the sparkly house, image of Inami in a paper bag and boxing gloves, and then burning up are all fun, but they don’t change the fact that 90% of what they should be verbally expressing to each other remains stubbornly in their respective heads, running around in circles. It dawns on Souta that these events prove that Inami likes him, and Inami herself believes she said enough to give him that impression, but nothing comes of it; he simply gets bashful and scurries off. But hey, at least she didn’t punch him!

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Worse still, an already stretched-out A-story was padded rather clunkily by a seriously lacking B-story in which Yamada runs around with Natto, spills it on her, declares she’s “Done With Natto”, and is then convinced to go back to it after she learns most everyone’s favorite foods are soy-based. We get it; Yamada’s a big ol’ weirdo. Yet the episode insisted on banging a pot behind our heads shouting “OMG ISN’T YAMADA SO WEIRD!” I would have honestly preferred a B-story centered on literally anyone else. This was a rare miss for Working!!.

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Charlotte – 05

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This week’s Charlotte begins with a rather unpleasant scene of Nao being dragged out of class and beaten behind the school by a mob of other girls. Yuu follows but doesn’t interfere, but what’s unclear is whether Nao is disappointed or glad about it. He presumes it’s what she gets for messing with people with her invisibility. He knows what it’s like to bear misdeeds; he’s perpetrated plenty of his own with his body-swapping.

And yet, while Yuu doesn’t play the role of the shining knight swooping in to save Nao from her tormentors, with or without his ability, Yusa and Joujirou both agree they’re “not an unpleasant couple to be around” due to their natural chemistry and spouse-like interactions. If they didn’t care about each other one way or another, they wouldn’t fight; that kinda thing.

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Nao believes the Council’s next target is up in the mountains near the city practicing his flying ability (the downside to the power is never mentioned). The best way she believes to do that is to set up camp and stake the place out indefinitely until they either spot him or he comes to them.

In the process of camping the group participates in typical group-bonding activites that take place during camping, like starting a fire, roasting corn, meat, and vegetables, playing video games, and stargazing. The latter is something only Nao and Yuu do, with the latter finding her alone listening to a group called ZHIEND, whose lead vocalist and composer is blind.

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In another indication Yuu and Nao are a somewhat fated couple, he gets the same feeling from the quiet music as she does: that of being in a vast, gorgeous, lonely open space. She even gifts him her music player, excited as she is to find a fellow fan. The music makes Yuu remember the face of girl who looks a lot like a younger Ayumi but who he doesn’t know, but he’s woken from the dream when it’s his turn to keep watch.

On the second night of the camping stakeout, Yuu and Jou bathe in the river, where Jou tells Yuu it’s best if he set romantic plans aside until two years from now, when they’ll lose their abilities. It makes me wonder if this show will let us see that future and how it changes these classmates and colleagues who are gradually becoming friends.

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It really is a journey-not-destination kind of episode, as the flying kid mission is wrapped up extremely easily. Yuu swaps bodies with him and ends up several thousand feet above the ground (an awesome sight, to be sure), and when he comes down softly but slightly banged up, less than a minute of convincing from Nao persuades the guy to stop using his ability.

Back home, there isn’t much pizza sauce left, and so Yuu gets his first tolerable meal frmo Ayumi in a long time. He also manages to convince her not to put it in everything, finally. But then Ayu starts coughing, and her temperature is 37.8, prompting Yuu to get her under a futon. Hopefully Ayumi doesn’t get sicker as a prelude to the awakening of her own power; but I’ll admit that’s not outside the realm of possibility.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 05 (17)

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Chat rooms are abuzz with rumors about masked Dollars/Blue Scarves purging the gang of unwanted members. A combat training-obsessed loon is stalking Hijiribe Ruri. And Celty, having rescued a client’s beloved pet snake, comes home still upset about the white rider. How do all these disparate events connect? The people involved in them, and their myriad degrees of connection to one another.

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While there are a lot of developments involving newer characters and illustrating the rot around the edges of Ikebukuro are slowly spreading, this is an episode that puts the main trio of Mikado, Masaomi, and Anri front and center (as much as a sprawling ensemble show can do so). Their connections have changed, and they know it, but all three seem to be preparing to make a new go of things. Ikebukuro’s fate seems tied to these three, even if they may not have major roles in many episodes.

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Ostensibly, this is an episode about people coming to talk to other people; those connections we mentioned being crucial to them figuring out what’s going on and receiving counsel on how to proceed. Shizuo’s bro Kasuka and Ruri come to Shizuo seeking a connection to the Dollars, a member of whom is believed to be stalking her. Shizuo is no longer a member, but he knows someone who does/is in Shinra and Celty, so Kasuka and Ruri don’t come up empty. They also pawn Ruri’s Scottish Fold kitten off on Shizuo, fearing the stalker may harm it.

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Celty arrives home from her latest exciting, death-defying mission to find Anri wants her and Shinra’s counsel regarding Mikado. Anri, who knows him as well as anyone, thinks he’s acting strange, mostly because he’s so upbeat and confident in his own power, which is decidedly not what Mikado has classically been about.

While walking home, he even tells Anri he doesn’t care about her secrets (some of which he’s seen, but neither has spoken of); he only cares about “creating a place for her” in Ikebukuro, as well as a place everyone else. It’s what he intended when he founded the Dollars, and it’s what he’s trying to translate into the real world.

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Celty recalls a past visit from Kuronuma Aoba asking about an email address that they ended up giving to him. Shinra compared Aoba to Orihara Izaya in his greediness and need to feel the whole world in the palm of his hand, or to put it another way, his compulsion to bat a ball of yarn around and revel in its unraveling. Aoba hates the comparison because he hates Orihara, but also because he knows he comes across as a younger knock-off of that more famous troublemaker.

How much Aoba is influencing Mikado and how much of this is Mikado’s will is still unclear, but at least on the surface, and despite Anri’s reservations, Mikado does seem to have a good handle on things, and he’s using the Scarves to get rid of the nastier members of the Dollars who undermine his desire to create a place for everyone. It’s a nasty conundrum: excluding those who exclude in order to preserve inclusivity.

We see Masaomi preparing to return to Ikebukuro, with Saki’s blessing, at a time when, again, on the surface, Mikado needs him the least, but deeper down, may need that old connection to return now more than ever before he loses himself. In any case, I’ll bet Masaomi will be every bit as unnerved by New Mikado as Anri is.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 17

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Zane reviews this week’s Food Wars.

I should have known Souma’s homecoming wouldn’t consist of kicking back and relaxing…or rather kicking back and relaxing the way normal people do on vacation. Though he only intends to “air out” the diner, when classmates and townsfolk see the shop open, they swarm to him, and he’s more than happy to feed them.

Then a nexus of elements conspire to put him in the middle of a shopping district-saving karaage challenge, and he can’t help but put every effort into it. The kid simply doesn’t turn off. Nor does the show’s hunger for heightened tension through competition, no matter what the challenge is.

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His return home also marks the return of his adorable classmate Kurase Mayumi, on the surface one of the show’s plainest and least charismatic characters. Yet in a show replete with colorful, eccentric personalities, Mayu actually stands out due to her relative normal-ness.

She couldn’t be more different than the glamorous, scantily-clad buxom, low-voiced meat-expert Nikumi, who enthusiastically accepts Souma’s call to pay him a visit without question or complaint (and whose T&A have their own proprietary sound effects). I take that back: they’re similar in one very important way: they both like Souma.

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More to the point, they both feel threatened by one another. Nikumi fears the chipmunk-like Mayu is the type of gal Souma goes for; Mayu fears Nikumi is actually Souma’s girlfriend, and is so blown away by her sexiness she forgets they’re in the same grade. Truth be told, I’m a Souma x Megumi shipper and thus not really in this particular fight, but the two make for a fun duo flanking a predictably oblivious Souma.

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The three stop by the wildly popular Mozuya specialty karaage shop that is cleaning up from its primo location in the newly renovated train station shopping arcade. The lady in charge is the volatile, venomously competitive (and hilarious!) Nakamozu Kinu, who isn’t content to just clean up, but also dance on the corpses of the shopping district losers she’s stealing business from. When she learns Souma & Co. are there to scout, she isn’t the slightest bit intimidated, because Mozuya is an award-winning, financially burgeoning karaage giant.

Mozuya reminds me of Chik-Fil-A, a local fast food chain in America that also specializes in chicken. Every store is a well-oiled machine, whether it’s in a mall or a standalone. Every time I go, I’m met with uncommon (to American fast food at least) courtesy and hospitality from an obviously highly-trained and motivated staff, regardless of how busy it is…and it’s always busy.  I’ve made complicated orders for large groups during the lunch rush, and always get the order within a minute or so of placing it. It’s uncanny.

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Chik-Fil-As are, in fact, run so well, it’s almost suspicious, like there’s something sinister at work. And that’s the same vibe I got from Mozuya. Nakamozu certainly has her merciless, sinister side, which thoroughly unsettles foodnorm Mayumi well after they depart. Souma and Nikumi, on the other hand, are used to that kind of tension, and have been through culinary hell together; this is just another challenge to overcome.

But it’s not going to be easy. Mozuya has been perfecting its recipe for years, and though Mayu is a game taste tester, Souma isn’t able to create any test batches of karaage remotely good enough to topple the giant. The ultra-rich and thus out of touch with the real world Nikumi suggests fighting fire with a tactical nuke, AKA her family’s vaunted A5 beef, but her idea of “affordable” is over three times Souma’s price ceiling.

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Even if profits aren’t as important as victory to Nikumi, Souma isn’t just trying to win; he’s trying to revitalize the shopping district. So it’s interesting that it’s Mayumi, a native of the town like Souma, gives him the spark he needs to move forward by suggesting playing to the strengths of the district rather than playing on Mozuya’s turf.

As he works out what he’s going to do, Nakamozu has a call with her restaurant advisor, who happens to be one of the Elite Ten along with Isshiki and Erina. That means if Souma can somehow defeat Mozuya, that will speak volumes to his ability to take on said Elite Ten. Not a bad feat to pull off while on vacation!

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Ushio to Tora – 05

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It was only a matter of time before one of the characters from the OP we haven’t seen yet comes out of the woodwork, drawn out by Ushio and Tora’s very highly-televised appearance a couple weeks back, the fallout for which I’d been waiting for. This new character, Hyou the Exorcist, is probably the most interesting “monster”-of-the-week thus far, because he’s not merely pure evil, nor does he immediately target Ushio’s girlfriends. He’s a breath of horribly-scarred fresh air.

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Hyou gave up his name and his old life after his family, most of that life, was viciously murdered by a demon, so he trained his mind and body towards avenging them. Hyou could only have gotten the slightest glimpse of the demon in the dark that tragic night years ago (with his one non-blood-filled eye), but the fuzzy image on the TV is enough to convince him that Tora is the culprit.

When he comes to Japan to kill Tora, he inevitably meets Ushio, whom he trusts is not his enemy because he wields the Beast Spear. That being said, Ushio is immediately conflicted by the situation before him. He can either tell Hyou the truth—Tora has been locked in a cellar for 500 years and couldn’t possibly have killed his wife and daughter—or simply let Hyou kill him, so he doesn’t have to do it.

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Ushio decides on the latter, and Hyou begins to battle Tora fiercely while Ushio…washes dishes, not at all confident that the choice he made was the right one. At school the next day the girls immediately pick up on his quandary and the fact he’s not acting like himself. Mayuko imagining an imminent shouting match that doesn’t pan out is a nice way of showing how off he is.

Asako, showing how deep and strong their friendship goes, isn’t about to let him be. While Hyou is a great new introduction and his history is a sad one, but it’s the deepening of Asako’s character, who might feign dislike for Ushio most days but won’t hesitate to leap out and try to pull him out of his funk, that forms the emotional heart of the episode.

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That heart is fully bared as Asako follows Ushio home at sundown, keeping her distance at first, then rushing and attacking him, hoping he’ll lash out and snap out of whatever is going on with him. Ushio isn’t about to hit her, funk or no, but Asako’s passion, concern, love, and physical blows do shift Ushio from his stasis, and inspire him to right the wrong he made. Komatsu Mikako really pulls out all of the stops for the multi-dimensional Asako.

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Meanwhile, Hyou has been battling Tora for two days and two nights, and he’s on the brink of victory, which he believes will quell his boiling rage and give him peace. And it would have, had Ushio kept his mouth shut. But that ain’t how Ushio works. If it’s within his power to correct an injustice, he must act, much like the Road Runner must run on the road.

Tora may be an evil jackass sometimes, but he didn’t kill Hyou’s family, and killing him, or rather killing Ushio, who decides to protect him, will make Hyou a murderer, not an avenger. And that isn’t even the only reason Ushio is doing this. Not only did Tora save his life (and the lives of his friends), but if anyone is going to ultimately defeat Tora, it has to be Ushio. Just as Tora fights off others to preserve his prey for himself, Ushio fights off Hyou to preserve his.

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In keeping with shonen-style romances, Ushio doesn’t thank Asako face-to-face (meaning no blushing or near-kissing; though it’s a long show; who knows what the future holds). Instead, he thanks her by delivering a gigantic beauty of a watermelon that puts a big smile on Asako’s face, not just because she knows Ushio is feeling better and got over whatever was bothering him, but because she was the one able to help him out.

Ushio likely didn’t want to freak Asako out by appearing before her anyway, as his face is a swollen, scarred mess and he’s recovering from multiple stab wounds at home, all the marks of defending Tora. Tora performs his usual stalking maneuvers over the snoring Ushio (calling to mind Hobbes’ pouncing routine), but seeing those marks stays his paw, as does remembering how good Mayuko’s cheeseburgers tasted.

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