Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 10

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The last three episodes of lazy onsen antics would seem to have been a concerted effort to lull us into a sense of complacency and security before Yuki got hit by a car and…simply changed. Honestly, she undergoes the most radical character change I’ve seen since Golden Time. It’s sobering; it’s unsettling; it’s downright intense. And it’s also kind of amazing.

That’s because the previously most dramatic moment of this series was when Yuki walked in on Haruhi giving Kyon chocolate. That seems so petty and insignificant now. Also, while I had worried Haruhi would take over the show, here she doesn’t appear at all, not for one second. Nor, ironically, does the sun. It’s all dark clouds and rain, matching the gloom and uncertainty of the situation.

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Also, it takes a little while, but I realized how Yuki was talking and acting: like she did in the Haruhi series: distant, unemotional, nigh impossible to read. In other words, completely different from the Yuki of the first nine episodes. That it feels so very wrong for her to talk and act like this is a testament to how well the show has sold to me the idea of “New Yuki”.

And neither Asakura and Kyon seem to know what to do with her now that she’s seemingly regressed to who we know of as the “Old Yuki” of the other shows, who acts this way because she’s not human, but rather an alien interface. It’s impossible for a veteran of the franchise to not make the connection, which I’m sure is the producers’ intent.

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For the record, I don’t believe there’s any alien influence or other supernatural powers at work here. To that end, the explanation that makes the most sense is that Nagato Yuki suffered some kind of personality-altering brain trauma as a result of the accident (The somewhat spoilery preview shows brain scans that would seem to back this up).

But man, this episode was packed with uncomfortable scenes in which a normally flustered, flattered, or bashful Yuki simply…didn’t have any reactions at all. It’s smart of the show to jettison the others for an episode and keep her with the two people who know her the best, which underlines just how much she’s changed since that encounter with the car.

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I will say I thought the soundtrack was a little over-assertive throughout most of this, except for the very end, when we started hearing stuff we’ve never heard on the show before, stuff that doesn’t jibe with Yuki’s romantic narrative, but something else entirely. Asakura’s look of resignation, followed by her final question to Yuki before the credits roll; essentially, “Who the heck are you?” heightens the tension that accompanies the already ample discomfort and gloom.

I have no idea where the final six episodes will take us, but I can say for sure that my hopes for a “feel-good”, low-effort romance are as broken as Yuki’s primary glasses. But I will also say that the show has my full attention. It’s taken a huge bold step I honestly never saw coming, but probably should have, because of that dang “disappearance” in the title.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 10

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Somewhat predictably based on how we’ve seen her act around Souma before, Erina is not particularly prepared to bump into Souma in the hallway after taking her bath. To whit: she denies she was humming the ED (she was, like Souma) and claims she’s not interested in playing cards later (which she is, as Hisako procured cards from the front desk). Still, it was nice to see a slightly more vulnerable side of her, even if she tried her darnedest to keep up a hostile front.

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Souma, who is perfectly comfortable expressing his happiness at being through the day’s trials, maintains his “whatever” attitude, and is surprised to find Doujima Gin already in the bath, stretching and making manly noises. While Gin oozes super-manliness, Souma isn’t intimidated, and the two actually bond, with Gin telling him more about Erina and her “God Tongue.”

Souma, not the sharpest tack with non-cooking-related things, realizes Erina beat him to the baths. He also learns Isshiki was the first back last year. He’s among greatness everywhere he looks, and fulfilling his wish to graduate at the top of his class will be no small feat.

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Thankfully, Souma’s whole dorm of first-years are able to survive the first day, and while many of them are all gung-ho about enjoying their fancy digs and playing through the night, those same people fall asleep quickly. Megumi doesn’t, though: fighting alongside Souma and rising to the occasion both with the first challenge and with dinner, she’s so full of confidence, she’s wide awake even though she’s exhausted.

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So naturally, the second day consists of a challenge that immediately puts that newfound confidence to the test by taking away her security blanket (Souma) in an every-person-for-themselves battle to prepare the best nine vegetable terrine for one Shinomiya Koujirou, who washed out 30 students in the first day.

Megumi initially freezes up at the sight of the bedlam before her, but clenches her fists and joins the fray, grabbing all the vegetables she needs…save one: the only cauliflower left when she gets to them are discolored due to oxidation. And in a dish where looks are as important as flavor, discolored cauli will sink her.

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I liked how Shinomiya gave Souma’s dish one bite, pondered it, and said “Pass.” No foodgasm, no elaborate fantasy; this guy is all business, and you don’t get any extra fanfare or praise for doing your job. Even Souma seems surprised by the lack of reaction.

But this isn’t Souma’s show this week; it’s Megumi’s. The A-part ended with a portentious scene of Megumi’s dish failing and Shinomiya expelling her, and that’s exactly what happens here. Yet even though we were fairly warned it would happen, when he brings the hammer down my heart sinks right along with Megumi’s.

The kicker: Shinomiya, while a dick, has a pretty ironclad reason for washing her out: she changed the chef’s recipe without his leave. Sure, the resulting dish was a success, but the point of the exercise was to show whether one was quick and tough enough to secure the freshest ingredients the fastest, and in this Megumi failed.

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But again, Shinomiya IS a dick, because there was no reason to include unfresh vegetables other than to increase the number of students who failed. Had she gotten a good cauli, she would have surely passed. Basically, Shinomiya’s logic is flawed, because in a restaurant situation, with a hungry customer waiting for a terrine, you’d probably do what Megumi did…though not necessarily in haute cuisine

At the end of the day, I’m siding with Megumi because I like her and don’t want her to go away, even if it’s unrealistic to expect everyone Souma knows to make it past the training camp, let alone graduate. It’s a bullshit reason to expel someone, and I’m glad Souma is standing up for her, even though the last thing she wants is for someone else to get expelled on her behalf—by challenging Shinomiya to a shokugeki. 

Shinomiya is by far the toughest foe he’s ever gone up against, so it should be a hell of a fight.

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DanMachi – 10

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Bell and his new party of three—a good number for exploring dungeons, if you ask me!—hit the middle floors full of confidence and swagger, and the first wave of enemies aren’t much of a problem. But then the waves keep coming, and coming, and before long the party is overwhelmed.

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DanMachi does a great job escalating the situation into near-chaos, as minor injuries get worse with subsequent attacks, magic fatigue sets in, and hordes of enemies surround them menacingly, never relenting. As Ryuu warned him, the dungeon is a cunning place that toys with you until it finds your weakness. Bell’s isn’t that hard to divine: he’s inexperienced on this floor, pure and simple.

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Hestia, who had a worrisome look about her when Bell set off, has her fears confirmed when her friend Take’s familia emerges from the dungeon and reports that their party initiated a “pass parade” on Bell’s—dumping their enemies on to him. It was a selfish move, but I can’t fault the party leader, with the responsibility of a lot of people on his back, for choosing his party’s survival to that of “strangers.”

Hestia lets them know, however, that if Bell never returns, she’ll never forget (though she won’t hate them). She also formally issues a quest, and she’s never looked as goddess-like when the light shines through the stained glass as she asks for volunteers.

Take offers some of his familia to assist her (as amends), but Hermes (a fellow god who we haven’t seen thus far, but assume is fast) and his adjutant, Asfi also join in.

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Bell’s party survives a hellhound attack thanks to Welf’s “Will-o-the-Wisp” ability, but he’s in a bad way. Obviously Bell isn’t going to leave anyone behind, so when three minotaurs corner them, he relies on his “Argonaut” skill to overcome them. But this winds him; if this were an RPG I’d say both his HP and MP were critical, and they’re nowhere near the exits.

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Bell’s got skills, but his power isn’t limitless, so it’s a good thing the cavalry is on its way. I really like the idea of Hestia taking an active role in her familia’s rescue, ignoring the rules forbidding gods from the dungeon. I’m curious what the consequences for breaking that rule are, as well as what battle skills she’ll be showing off. I’m also pleased that Ryuu Lion is joining the party, coming out of semi-retirement.

All in all, a nice illustration of how tough and unforgiving the dungeon can be, and how while Bell may have his detractors, he also has a good number of people looking out for him. All he has to do is sit back (as much as one can do so on the middle floors of a dungeon) and wait for his friends—and his family—to come get him.

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