Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 01

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CRY HAVOC, AND LET SLIP THE DOGS OF FOOD WARS.

That’s right, the ridumptuousness (ridiculous sumptuousness) continues right where it left off: the final round of eight/quarterfinals. And as if knowing how much we’ve missed it, the second season gives us a Souma vs. Alice showdown in its entirety: beginning, middle, and end.

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Before the match, we see how hard it is for Erina not to get worked up and start yelling at Souma (who only responds with lighthearted friendliness as usual). Alice is good at “playing” this “game” with Souma, keeping her contempt and condescension below her cool surface. This makes Alice an interesting adversary, because she’s so nice on the surface, but with that killer instinct just below it.

But make no mistake: Alice is on it in this match, and fuly intends to blow the judges and Souma away. Not only does she finish first, but she delivers a veritable jewlery box of amazing, delicate, yet powerful temari sushi flavors.

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Everyone is bowled over, as she intended; even her grandfather goes bare-chested, which is a sure sign you know some god frikkin’ food has just been served. But while the other judges and crowd are intimidated and disheartened by Alice’s culinary might, Souma just keeps grinding, not the slightest bit unfazed.

When he reveals his dish, locked tightly in a multi-layer lunch pail/tiffin, to be an evolution of nori bento, Alice has never actually heard of it; perhaps too beneath her greatness? But at this point, she remains friendly towards Souma, though some say she’s just being condescending because she’s so certain of winning. Akasaki Chinatsu excels in giving Alice just the right tones.

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But as usual, Souma combines his time-tested techniques with fresh ideas from the most random places to shock and delight the judges over and over again. Alice’s dazzling sushi jewels were on display for all to see, but Souma’s is likened to a treasure box, and its inherent thrill of discovery.

His secret weapon in the rice layer seemed at first like he was simply copying one of Alice’s molecular techniques, but it turns out making liquids into solid beads is something he’s done for years, after trying a kid’s candy label that tought him how to do it. Furthermore, he was reminded of the technique while cooking for kids, i.e. working for more than just himself.

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Alice could easily throw Souma’s apparent “Heart over Science” strategy in his face with a scoff, deeming flavor the most important thing, but her grandfather admonishes her: this isn’t about whose dish reminded whom of their childhood. It’s about bento, and Souma’s take on that theme—doing things you could only do with bento—surpassed what could just as easily have been a dish in a sushi battle.

So Alice, who has likely long forgotten what losing is, loses in a HUGE upset. And Souma’s bento’s time-travelling powers send her back to cold Scandanavia where she worked furiously to gain techniques Erina lacked so that Erina wouldn’t be the only young Nakiri people would mention in conversation.

Alice has already achieved that, and taken her place on a near-equal level with her cousin. So it was high time she was brought back down to earth from her cold space station of centrifuges and liquid nitrogen, and brought back into the warmth. Hopefully she’ll take this fair-and-square defeat in stride and not go all Erina on Souma!

Next up: Megumi vs. Ryou. So glad this show is back. Now I wait…until Restaurant Week later this month!

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Rewrite – 01 (First Impressions)

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Rewrite is a sprawling adventure with a little bit of everything in its hour-long premiere. MC Tennouji Kotarou jumps from fantastical dreams, and being bitten by a “ghost” in his bed every night, to gradually stocking his harem group of female friends at the fancy academy he attends in real life.

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The show often suprises with its transitions from the supernatural to the mundane, often merging the two visually, as when Kotarou locates a dozing Kotori under a tree (he meets a lot of girls around trees).

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Rewrite wastes none of its hour introducing a bevy of characters, from Kotarou’s fellow outcasts in class, the “delinquent” Yoshiro and his childhood friend Kotori, to the literally fiery class rep Konohana and the cherry pantsu-wearing, super-strong transfer student Ootori Chihaya.

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It’s a lot of people to keep track of, but I wasn’t overwhelmed, as their designs and personalities were distinctive enough to tell them apart. That being said, Lucia and Nakatsu seemed extraneous to this first episode, while the newspaper girl losing a piece of paper that leads to Kotarou learning about the “Academy Witch” was a little forced. But the Witch’s almost Howl’s Moving Castle-style sumptuous, comfortable office. She’s just nowhere to be found, which is kind of the point.

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If Kotarou wants something done about his nightly bitings, he has to find the Witch, but she makes him work for it, communicating through curt notes, including one saying he’ll be dead in two days.

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Another extraneous scene is the one in which Kotarou takes Ootori on a bike tour of the city, which is pleasant enough, but Ootori’s initial aggression towards him seems to fade away too quickly into an all-too-pliant potential love interest; one of several introduced.

It’s as if he initially chose the wrong options of speaking to her, but managed to climb out of the hole he dug. I won’t deny the tour of the eco-city was pretty, though.

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That night, things get considerably less pleasant and pliant for Kotarou, as he jumps through several hoops in hopes of meeting the Witch. Instead, he gets chased through the halls by weird creatures, the ghost girl who’s been biting him steals his (Key Brand) coffee, and he gets trapped in a stony void with two pixies named Pani and Gil.

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He and the pixies then accidentally wake up a giant crab monster (in just the place Kotarou expects to find the boss), but the silver-haired ghost girl comes to the rescue. Well, she doesn’t so much rescue Kotarou as level an immense and outsized portion of magic-based wrath upon the crab that spilled her delicious stolen coffee. Her cool-headed battle with magic shields and weaponized ribbons was pretty fun to watch.

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Hilariously, Kotarou falls a great distance and lands…on the floor of the school, everything back to normal, with a Colonel Sanders mannequin smiling down on him. Upon delivering the mannequin to the Occult Club office, he finally meets the Academy Witch, Senri Akane, in person. And it looks like she’s got plans for the kid.

Oh yeah, dreams, hallucinations, and illusory spells aside, Kotarou himself is “gifted” supernaturally, though we only see small hints of it in his ability to leap great distances and in preparing (but never unleashing) a skill he calls “accelerating.”

No doubt we’ll see more of his abilities now that he’s met the Academy Witch, who ask him the question of whether he wants to change himself or change the world.

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Space Patrol Luluco – 13 (fin)

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Not to be outdone by the second to last episode, Luluco’s finale pulls a surprisingly emotional twist before unleashing the series’ best animated fight scene.

Nova is almost immediately destroyed by a micro-blackhole that the Blackholien planted in his head, just in case of emergencies. And while Luluco ultimately gets to say good bye towards the end of the fight, and they both commit to seeing each other again, some day, in some dimension, The immediate emotional damage to Luluco is handled very. Extra credit well for such a goofey 7 minute format show.

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As is always the case, the episodes visuals are packed with meaning. The bullet Luluco and Nova fire when combined is wrapped with the film strips of their memories together, for example.

Another side detail that caught my attention was Luluco’s father, who encourages Luluco to ‘hunt Nova down to the ends of the universe and arrest him again’ because that’s what he’d do… and probably did over Lalaco.

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After Blackholien is defeated, episode 13 treats us to an Epilog: Midori is promoted to Chief, the Chief is promoted to commander in chief, Luluco’s dad is off chasing Lalaco, and Luluco has become ‘Lady Trigger’ a special dimension hopping space patrol agent who’s riding an upside down gun motorcycle.

It’s a neat and tidy wrap up for the show and pleasantly ambiguous about time and greater purpose. Luluco looks older (or sexied up at least) and even though she has a greater quest, the caveat that she can hop dimensions (and is now the Trigger of the universe), she could just as likely become a new mascot for Trigger, as get a sequel.

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Verdict: Space Patrol Luluco had some wonderful highs, often relying on a batshit crazy mix of heart warming music, innocent emotions, incomprehensible action and inside brand-jokes. It also lagged a bit in the middle and, despite the thrill of the best 7 minute segments, there was very little room to build rounded characters and a strong attachment.

At the end of the day, Luluco lives in the shadow of Kill La Kill, FLCL, and TTGL. Absolutely worth your time, possibly an interesting extension of its studio’s brand, but its devotion to the absurd and packed micro episodes holds it back from developing the lived in world — a mad world many viewers would fantasize living in — presented by the greats.

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Space Patrol Luluco – 12

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Nearing the finale, Luluco wastes no time reassembling its cast and bringing out the mega showdown: Lalaco immediately shows up to bail everyone out of jail, re-unites Luluco’s father’s body and brain, and allows Luluco to ‘doc’ with the pirate ship.

Then an over the top space battle ensues and it’s wonderful.

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Nova being empty and Luluco’s love not being fulfilled is the second bit of tidying up we get and it too is as over the top as ever. Luluco literally fills Nova up with her ‘stupid middle school love’ until he can finally feal emotions. His heart blossoms, creating it’s own blue love jem, which combines with Luluco’s to create ‘true mutual first love,’ the most poerful in the universe.

Thus united, the two stand off against Blackholien for the final final show down.

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Verdict: the amount of detail, texture and novelty packed into this episode’s visuals is mind bending. It works well, but there’s so much you can digest, you may feel the urge to rewatch it a few times without subtitles, and to pause a few frames for closer inspection.

In fact, that shiny flashy constant distraction benefits the plot overall, because the plot itself is an eye-rollingly simple affair of Girl Meets Boy, Love wins the Day. This is far from a criticism, obviously. Simple can be wondrous when the visuals and timing are this masterfully crafted.

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