Ushio to Tora – 10

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Another week, another supernatural task-of-the-week for the titular Ushio and Tora. This time, while bathing in a healing hot spring, they encounter a beautiful white-haired girl whom they accidentally startle away. That girl, Saya, is the latest in a long line of white-haired women who have served as intermediary between the wealthy and powerful Takatori family and their “household god”, in truth a zashiki warashi being held against her will.

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Saya is very sickly and frail, and prone to fainting spells, which is how Ushio meets her next: saving her from one of anime’s patented Killer Vehicles. Saya is prone to overapologizing, and when Ushio learns the reason why—a life of being used as little more than a tool to keep her shithead father and grandmother rich and comfy— he’s very pissed off and wants to do something to help.

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It just so happens that Omamori-sama, the captive zashiki warashi, had been expecting a lad with a spear since Saya’s dad was young, warning him when such a lad arrived, it would mean the end of his prosperity and good fortune and the beginning of his ruin. Omamori is also sick of watching white-haired woman after woman life and die “consoling” her, and would prefer at this point to die herself when the barrier is broken rather than continue this vicious cycle. Saya brought Ushio and Tora to talk about freeing her, but she’s obviously against Omamori dying.

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As Tora (once a captive himself) surprises Omamori with his relative kindness and loyalty to his human by opening a temporary tear in the barrier, Omamori convinces Saya to seek a better life than the one she has; aiming higher than being a servant her lazy cheat relatives. The barrier breaks, the househould literally crumbles, and Omamori floats away in a gorgeous ethereal way.

Saya and her family now have nothing, and it will be tough going, but at least she’s now free to live her life and explore heretofore untapped strength and ability…like the ability to stop reflexively apologizing and tell Ushio an idiot when he flirts with her! I’m a little disappointed Saya and Omamori don’t accompany Ushio and Tora on their quest, but the whole point after all is for them to stand on their own two feet. Maybe they’ll show up again down the road.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 22

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The group B preliminaries really heat up this week, with most of the best candidates being saved for last. The episode also benefits from involving characters I personally care more about, like Yuki, the Super Mario Aldini brothers, Alice, and of course Megumi. We start with the less well-known but still rootable Hojo Miyoko, who earns an 87 with her sweet-and-sour-esque curry fried rice, followed by a delectable duck curry that only scores one point lower, a surprise for someone I didn’t think would be in the running.

The younger Aldini Isami goes first with a very tasty-looking tomato curry calzone that successfully, stylishly fuses Italian and Japanese cuisine, but it’s immediately followed by Takumi’s cheese-stuffed curry linguine with curry gravy that wows the judges even more, earning the second 90 after Hisako last week. Once again, Isami is bested by his slightly older, slightly more talented brother, and simply has to suck it up.

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For what it’s worth, Takumi is gracious in victory, and has always said that the two of them are better as a pair than separate. Unfortunately, the Autumn Elections are not something in which they can compete as a pair.

That leaves the final two contestants in Group B, who couldn’t be any more different in their approaches, much like Asako and Nao. Alice literally dazzles and confounds the assembled gourmands with her extremely bizarre-looking, futuristic dish that is a melange of all kinds of varying textures and temperatures. Each judge awards her 19 points out of 20 for a total of 95 – a score Souma will have to beat in Group A to earn a measure respect from a Nakiri.

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in their haste to wrap up the competition with a vote to break the tie of Miyoko and Isami, everyone forgets poor Megumi, who, perhaps appropriately, must follow up the most futuristic dish from an alien world with the most down-home traditional dish from her hometown. Nay, the dish, a monkfish curry hot-pot, IS her town, through and through, from the fish to the vegetables to the preparation, it brings the disoriented judges back down to earth and wraps them in warmth and love.

Meg earns 88 points and a spot in the final eight, proving her convictions and technique are no gimmick, and also proving to Miyoko that while you can shut men up with sheer force and fire, you can also earn their respect and admiration with sheer determination and water, as we see from Megumi’s assembled fellow townsfolk.

Thus ends the Group B prelims, with Alice, Hisako, Takumi and Megumi moving on. On to Group A, where the other blonde bombshell judge has yet to award a single point with Alice’s aide Ryo about to present.

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Gakkou Gurashi! – 09

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For all its foreboding teasing of the evacuation plan and the possibility the school was built almost in expectation of a zombie apocalypse, with the exception of the closing minute this is the first episode of GG! that truly felt like more idle stalling than its usual expert mood and tension-building. That’s not surprising, considering the episode adopts the tried and in most cases tired trope of the ol’ Pool Episode—only the pool is a rooftop biotope.

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Mind you, it does seem to be summertime, and the girls are still girls, so they make it a point to try out the swimsuits they acquired at the mall to put their minds off all the zombie business and have some fun. But the fact both they and the episode simply set aside the zombie threat—without so much as a groan from down below in the yard where all the zombies are shuffling around—sapped the show of  its usual gripping dread. I kept expecting a ball or Frisbee would fly off the roof and garner unwanted attention…alas, no such peril ever materialized.

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It isn’t until everyone has showered, had a light meal, and gone off to bed that Taroumaru hears something with his dog ears, slips out of his lead, and strikes out to investigate. While the girls were spared any unpleasantness this week, that’s sure to change soon, as Megu-nee is still up and about—though decidedly neither alive nor well—in the sub-basement they’re preparing to explore tomorrow.

Considering in the chronology of the show there hasn’t actually been a zombie confrontation since they found one in the library way back in the second episode, I’d say we’re due for some fresh menace—this time of a far more personal kind—and of a kind that’s not going to do Yuki’s (or anyone else’s) mental state any favors.

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