Nisekoi 2 – 07

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With the show lagging of late, it decides to finally introduce Kosaki’s little sister Haru. However she’s revealed in the source material, she’s possibly the Spring’s worst-kept secret owing to her prominent presence in the OP, and brought with her the potential to shake things up. Too bad she’s a dull, ill-informed, unfair, irritating conclusion-jumping, faint shadow of Kosaki; herself a shadow of Chitoge and even Tsugumi of late.

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Things start off okay, with Haru heading to her first day of co-ed high school after attending a girls-only middle school. She’s so un-used to guys, being confronted by a posse of goons causes her to pass out, but not before she realizes she’s being saved from said goons by an anonymous but possibly dreamy classmate, whom she dubs her “Prince” upon waking up in the nurse’s office.

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When Haru bumps into someone, scattering all her printouts, Raku, the guy who saved her, comes over to help, and she’s heartened to see there are kind and gentle guys at her school. Only when she hears he’s the Notorious Yakuza-Backed Demon School Casanova King Ichijou Raku, she backs way off, warning she won’t let him lay a hand on her sister ever again before an inexplicable wind blows her (extremely short) skirt up, giving Raku a peek at her bear-themed pantsu. Har har.

Granted, Raku makes two mistakes here: First, he doesn’t’ just come out and tell her he’s the one who saved her and carried her to the nurse’s office, which in addition to picking up the papers, means she actually witnessed three kind acts that disprove his seedy reputation. But his second error was not only to not turn around immediately at the sight of Haru’s skirt coming up, but even muttering about the bears like an idiot, killing any goodwill he may have had with her.

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This hallway scene draws attention to itself with its interminable length, but maybe that’s the point: it is used to demonstrate, simply by having all of the other girls in Raku walk through that hall one by one, that Raku is a player, and we can’t fault a relatively sheltered Haru for thinking that, especially with Marika clinging to him as his gorgeous  “girlfriend” stands by (Chitoge actualy finds Haru cute—and she is—but she doesn’t know her yet). But the fact neither Raku nor Kosaki can set the record straight is more frustrating than funny.

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Things take a turn for the absurd when Haru, apparently an animal lover, decides to check out the same club Raku’s in. She overhears him wishing Kosaki was around and uses that as an excuse to yell at him some more about infidelity, before the goose inexplicably flips her skirt a second time. C’mon now, that was lame the first time!

This episode is redeemed by Kosaki’s simple but heartfelt explanation for why she thinks Raku is so sweet, which Haru points out is really an explanation for why Kosaki loves him. Haru is still skeptical, and I imagine she’ll remain so for at least another episode or two, but I’m weary of the fact that every time he demonstrates he’s a good guy, that fucking skirt flies up in his face.

I’m hoping Haru isn’t a lost cause, but her long-awaited intro—Adventures in Angry Little Sisterland—bombed. I came away frustrated so much time was spent on her as opposed to, say, any other character…even Paula, who has apparently decided to transfer to Raku’s school.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 08

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This week’s Food Wars leaves the confines of the school for an elaborate “training camp”, held on the premises of Totsuki’s famed (and very highly-priced) resorts. Isshiki warns his juniors that the purpose of the camp is to thin the herd; in some cases half of the students who participate end up on the expulsion block.

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Predictably, Megumi’s a nervous wreck, while Souma is perfectly relaxed, as he even calls out to “Nikumi” (a nickname he’s decided to use and she’ll just have to accept it) fresh off his victory over her. While I hope not every girl he beats gets the hots for him, I do like how nicely her haughtiness has been neutralized.

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Once at the resort, the students learn their various camp tasks will be judged by Totsuki alumni, all of whom went through this themselves and survived to graduation, and celebrity restaurateurs, who will be treating the students no differently than they treat their staff. If they’re no up to snuff, boom expelled. One judge makes their meaning plain by kicking out a kid just for having scented hair product.

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She’s paired with Souma again, to her sweet relief this time. The first time she thought she’d paired with a troublemaker who was all talk; but now she and many others know differently: he’s a troublemaker who is more than all talk. In fact, most of the talk is directed at him from one Takumi Aldini, who along with his fraternal twin bro Isumi, work at their family trattoria in Italy. Like Souma, he’s already a pro who’s served and satisfied thousands of customers.

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On top of their alumni judge Inui Hinako (a bubbly yet ruthless Noto Mamiko)’s challenge that they forage the resort grounds for the ingredients needed to create a Japanese-style dish, Takumi makes it a battle between him and Souma, with Inui deciding who’s best. In a nice character moment, Inui refuses, leaving Takumi stranded on his high horse, with even his own bro laughing at him. I like how everyone on the show is aware of Takumi’s overzealousness, as if he knows he’s in a shounen battle anime.

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He may be fiery, but he and Asumi are also one hell of a team, being the only students to find a duck, then perfectly timing their work to finish first with a Japanese-Italian fusion dish that makes Inui imagine herself in a Pavarotti-like opera singer’s arms as he serenades her while wearing a duck hat of sorts, in another bizarre foodgasm.

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Nikumi fell into a trap of “the best ingredients always win, period” and got clobbered by Souma, but these Aldini boys are a lot sharper and scrappier. The more limits you impose on them, the more creative and amazing the food they dish out. They’re a lot more on Souma’s level. On top of that, the brothers operate like a well-oiled machine, an efficiency we haven’t yet seen with Souma and Megumi.

Not only does Souma have to use river fish—the same thing everyone else is using—but he also has to properly coordinate its preparation with Megumi in the time remaining. Hopefully they Aldinis don’t try to sabotage them on top of all that, because their hill is steep enough as it is. Will Souma be able to turn Takumi’s loathing into grudging respect? I suspect so. What I look forward to is watching how.

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DanMachi – 08

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Syr makes Bell wash a lot of dishes, and Ryuu helps out. She says he has a difficult task ahead of him, and she’s only joking about the dishes, but it turns out to be true on another level, as he won’t be able to level up until he goes on an “adventure”, the definition of which is different for everyone.

There were also enough closeups of Syr for me to wonder if she’s up to something nefarious, or merely giving Bell a chance to clear his head with mindless dishwashing.

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Hestia doesn’t get a lot of time with Bell, who is so intent on discovering what his adventure is and executing it that he doesn’t even stick around for her to read the latest report on his stats. As far as he’s concerned, whatever that paper says, he’s not yet good enough.

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In his final spar with Aiz before her familia goes on a mission to a floor in the dungeon never before reached, Bell is finally able successfully counterattack her. She counters his counter, but his immense growth in so little time impresses her, and they part on amicable terms, telling one another good luck and to do their best.

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Still, Bell likely wishes he could have sparred more with Aiz and gotten to the point where he could fight on her level, but he is told to his face and behind his back that he may never be able to catch up to her. Not that he shouldn’t try, but surpassing her is not his “adventure” Ryuu speaks of.

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When the Minotaur that the Strong Dude in cahoots with Freya toughened up confronts Bell and Lili (just as they apparently planned), Bell freezes, and only survives thaks to Lili putting her body (and huge backpack) in harm’s way. She’s knocked out, but Bell tosses her aside to fight the Minotaur. When she wakes up, he ignores her desperate calls for retreat, telling her just to run while he buys time for her. Cue Epic Boss Fight Music!

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The Minotaur destroys the armguard Eina gave Bell on their sorta-date, and it looks like it’ll be curtains for our young adventurer, but Aiz, hearing he’s in trouble from her comrades, breaks protocol and rushes to his aid…again. This is when Bell shakes off his pain and gets stubborn.

At first I questioned what was so wrong with her saving him again, but that wasn’t going to do this time: This, he decides, is his adventure. He gets back up, dusts himself off, and re-engages with the beast, in a grudge match that’s as brutal as it is thrilling. He swipes his foe’s sword, carves him up, then shoots firebolts into him, literally blowing him up.

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The minotaur goes up in smoke, but so do the Loki Familia’s preconceptions of Bell’s ability, as they were all spectators to his convincing victory. An examination of his back by Riviera indicates all of his stats are “S-rank”, indicating even more astonishing growth in an unheard-of pittance of time.

Unfortunately, he also passes out on his feet, unable to savor that victory or see the impressed looks of the Loki familia. He’s placed in bed to recover, tended to by Hestia, glowing with both relief and pride for what Bell achieved, but assuring him it’s only the first page of their journey, with far more trials in store. That’s certainly true if Freya—who seemed to get off on his fight with the minotaur—has her way…and I’m pretty sure she will.

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