DAYS – 04

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The Gist: Chikako Ubukata is a mean girl now. She used to have passion but after several rejections, she became jaded. This episode she meets and immediately dislikes Tsukamoto for all the obvious feelings his efforts bring up.

Along the path of coming to respect and like herself, Tsukamoto jogs a lot, defeats a mean guy from the judo club at soccer, and takes life seriously. It’s a well tread narrative thread and you can see her becoming the team manager a mile away.

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“Haven’t you realized you’re the laughingstock of the entire class?”

The Verdict: time is everything and this week’s comedy was spot on. It was also dry as hell, with fantastic lines like “oh, he fell down.” Shovel on the warm-feeling of the under dog growing, getting better, and getting the respect he’s due, and you have the perfect balance for fun.

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Nothing deep, no high art, no grand aesthetic. Just smooth watching. That’s more than good enough for me.

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Handa-kun – 03

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The Gist: This week concludes the character introductions with Tsutsui Akane-kun, Kondo Yokio and Kawafuji-kun. The three-part episode format makes each segment feel a little short but, honestly, that’s probably for the best.

Even though the core gag is the same in each segment (Handa-kun thinks the opposite of what everyone thinks he thinks), hopping from segment to segment keeps it from feeling over used. Played out or not, the question is, does Handa-kun have enough to like in the first place?

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Tsutsui Akane-kun’s segment is the most interesting, structurally. See, Akane-Kun used to be a girly boy and he was literally tormented by the way Handa imagines being tormented. In a way, it is the way Handa is tormented: Girls thought Akane was stealing their boyfriends.

Unlike Handa, Akane broke and left school to become a shut in. Then he became a tough and redefined himself. When Handa/misunderstanding inevitably brings Akane back to school, the cycle continues with his own awkwardness leading Handa to think they are enemies.

tl;dr? It’s smarter than it is funny but it was also pretty funny.

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Yokio’s section would be straight forward except we, as viewers, can draw a deeper understanding of Handa’s weird popularity from Yokio’s conclusions. Yokio see’s Handa’s decisions as bizarre, and he can see everyone is forcing themselves to think of these decisions in a positive light, but he can also see that the results are positive. Handa-Force stops fighting to pay attention to Handa’s kitchen fire and they all appreciate getting ‘treat’ of special custard at the end, even if it’s gross.

The results make the intention unimportant. In a way, because Handa is an eccentric artist, his actions are basically performances too, which makes them not out of place for him to do… in an academic sense.

Looking at it from another angle, Yokio knows Handa’s work is high concept and he gets that ‘an ordinary Joe can’t grasp his appeal’ but that’s not going to stop him from trying.

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Kawafuji’s segment isn’t particularly interesting from a structural stand point and the jokes are over the top instead of funny. However, it shows us why Handa is so terrified of everyone, why Kawafuji is his only friend and why they would still be together in Barakamon.

Spoilers: it’s Kawafuji’s fault because he was jealous. It’s also his fault because he hasn’t told Handa the truth yet. It’s also likely in Handa’s favor not to learn the truth because a normal acting Handa loses all the mystique. It loses any purpose to watch the show, really.

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The Verdict: This week gave us the best Handa outing so far, largely because Akane, Yokio and Kawafuji are more interesting characters than the chairman and the model. Yokio and Kawafuji are especially good, because they actually see Handa for what he is: a wreck and bizarre.

Now that the comedic timing and dialog are tight, Handa-kun is enjoyable to watch. (even with the socially awkward cringe-factor) If some chuckles and tie-forward to the better show is enough to warrant keeping it on your schedule, there you have it. If not, summer’s packed with great shows. No big loss.

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Qualidea Code – 03

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In its third and final trial week (to determine if it’s worth watching), Qualidea Code presents its best episode yet, fixing the issues of the first two by further developing Ichiya, greatly upping the peril, and aside from a brief changing scene, ditching unnecessary skin.

It also introduces us to a potentially dark side of life in this new world, as those not up to snuff being transferred “inside” is talked about in weary tones, and a burden the adults must bear. Ichiya skips out on daily patrol to meet with a former subordinate who is being transferred inside due to injury.

He feels embarrassed to be acting so nice and considerate, but he is. But the patrol that sorties without him comes afoul of a new type of Unknown; the biggest and toughest yet and quickly called Leviathan-class.

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This is more like it. With Umihotaru and the Aqua Line under enemy control, the Unknown now have a beachhead upon which they can orchestrate a large-scale assault on the remainder of civilization. Kasumi wonders out loud why Ichiya wasn’t leading his patrol, and despite having a good reason, Ichiya stays tight-lipped and orders Cana to do the same.

Still, Ichiya blames himself for this mess, and looking over an old coloring book (where one mostly red-filled page documents the doomsday when the Unknown arrived), remembers he promised himself to get stronger in order to protect Canaria.

Cana pays Ichiya a visit, and sees the book entry, but Ichiya has already gone off on his own to fight the Leviathan.

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It’s a really, really dumb idea, but it fits who Ichiya is, and I wasn’t altogether sure he definitely would fail to beat the thing on his own. That being said, Cana makes sure to reach out to the two other heads and subheads, telling them what Ichiya has done and asking for their help.

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In the meantime, Canaria and the rest of Ichiya’s squad join Ichiya on the field of an excellent night battle, which Ichiya gets started off right by laying waste to dozens of lesser Unknowns in an attempt to awaken the hidden Leviathan from the sea.

Cana starts to sing to buff everyone, and the battle intensifies, aided by the pulsing soundtrack and light-dark contrast of the magical weaponry in the night. Ichiya even takes command of his people and coordinates their actions with a concentration on self-protection so that he can take on the tower alone, confident Cana and the others will be safe.

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But just when Ichiya is about to deliver the decisive blow you thought would wrap this episode up in a neat little bow, Cana’s voice gives out, her song and its effect stops, and Ichiya’s strike fails.

Looking back at an unconscious, bloodied Cana, Ichiya surprises us again by ordering a retreat, just as the Unknown Leviathan rises out of the water, showing that the gigantic tower was only the tip of a very vast iceberg.

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This is definitely more like it: no easy battle with easy outcome. Ichiya made mistakes this week, and he has to pay for them. The life of the one person he can’t fight or live without is suddenly in danger, and he’s simply not strong enough to defeat the foe before him. He’s not all they need, in other words.

As for Asuha, Kasumi, Hime and Hotaru, they’re on their way to Umihotaru in their preferred modes of transport, answering Cana’s call for help. Asuha is heartened by how quickly her bro sprang into action, despite his official hatred of Ichiya. He’ll need all of them to get through this.

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Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 04

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In hindsight, SnS wouldn’t have brought a character like Mimasaka Subaru into the foreground unless he had some extended role to play. And if he knew so much about Arata and Hayama, he’s doubtless know even more about open book Takumi. That meant Takumi probably never had a chance.

This week, Mimasaka takes Takumi apart, matching him move for move, then adding “twists” that push him even further into the corner, until his own gameplan and emotions become the enemy on top of the incredibly talented but demented chef he’s up against.

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He may not be the most nuanced character (frankly, it might have been nice if his character design weren’t so huge and threatening to so obviously match his predatory personality), but there’s no denying Mimasaka has a system, is utterly committed to it, because it works.

Even a judge has some real problems with how Mimasaka goes about his business in the kitchen, but Mimasaka knows people don’t like him, and doesn’t care. In a Shokugeki, it’s all about the food, and Mimasaka’s food is simply better than Takumi’s, and it’s not close.

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Thankfully, Takumi doesn’t simply curl into a ball and accept his defeat, even when it’s too late to start over with something new (and he’s limited by the ingredients on hand he himself chose). He manages to produce an ace in the hole with his homemade lemon curd layer made with the family olive oil.

It’s a brilliant, clutch counter to Mimasaka’s many twists, and at just the right time…but Mimasaka knows everything about Takumi, including the lemons and the oil, and his dish’s true genius isn’t revealed until the judges have tasted both and can compare. Mimasaka’s preserved lemons are in every layer of the semifreddo, and beat out Takumi’s curd.

It’s a total victory for Mimasaka—his 100th Shokugeki win—and he claims Takumi’s beloved mezzaluna, confident he’s stomped out yet another career. On to the semifinals, which occur in a week’s time.

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Rather than console Takumi, Souma simply goes home, and whether he expected it or not, Mimasaka is in his room (having used the spare key, to the girls’ horror). Souma maintains a neutral calm throughout most of their talk, being just as gracious a host as Mimasaka was to him last week. Mimasaka has come to announce they’ll be going up against each other. He wants a Shokugeki with Souma, and he wants his beloved knife.

Just as he knew how to push Takumi’s buttons, Mimasaka things he has Souma right where he wants him: angered that someone he respected has been so thoroughly humiliated. Indeed, it could be argued Mimasaka trampled Takumi as part of his overall strategy should he get Souma in the next round, which he did.

And he’s right: Souma is angry, and does take the challenge. But the terms are different. If Souma wins, Mimasaka will give him all of the hundred tools he’s claimed from those he’s beaten, essentially undoing his entire legacy. Souma considers Mimasaka and his methods more of a virus than an opponent; something to be wiped out entirely. He also considers those methods a waste of Mimasaka’s own considerable skills.

If Souma loses, he’ll quit being a chef. Well, we’re only four episodes into the season, and Souma is not going to quit being a chef…so I guess the result of his next match is clear, right? Perhaps, but it will surely be something to see how (not if) he bests someone who knows him better than he knows himself…at least on the outside.

I’m excited to see that, but I can’t help but think Mimasaka has been a wasted opportunity thus far, lacking the nuance of Souma’s other rivals. We’ve yet to see anyone defend Mimasaka’s philosophy or methods, nor has there been any attempt to explain how he came to adopt them. Perhaps that will come to light in his battle with Souma.

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Momokuri – 07 + 08

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Rio’s long-distance admiration of Momo progresses when their eyes meet and Momo reaches out in friendship, seeing as how her two best friends know his two best friends. Momo also inadvertantly sets Rio’s heart aflutter when he compliments her height and figure.

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Of course, Kuri also knows Rio, and sees her as a potential ally in her quest to document Momo in every possible condition, such as, say, when he’s in the pool for P.E. Rio feels a hint of kinship with Kuri, but Kuri’s so damn much that it still weirds Rio out in a way Norika is clearly more used to.

Kuri’s desire to meet with Rio meant not walking home with Momo after a long time of doing just that (and only that), so when Momo sees Kuri with Rio, he gets jealous, and gets even more somber when she doesn’t walk with him to school.

Obviously, dude has no reason to worry, since he was the whole reason Kuri met with Rio to begin with, and when he brings up how he’s felt down while they’ve been apart, it gives Momo a nosebleed he quickly and expertly attends to.

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Hearing his lower voice, and his request she not call him feminine, Kuri starts to think of Momo as more than just cute, but also a boy, though she’s still not quite sure what to do about it. After a kick from Norika, she commits to asking him out on a proper date to the beach.

Before she can, Momo steals a march on her, inviting her to a BBQ, along with all of their mutual friends. They both revel in the fact they’re on the phone with one another, to the point Kuri thinks out loud, embarrassing both of them while at the same time being happy the words were said.

These two episodes felt a lot more like a single, standard-length one, and with the BBQ not happening until next week, Momokuri has gotten very serialized. As long as things don’t get too complicated or dramatic…that’s what Orange is for! I like Momokuri because it’s simple, pleasant, and light.

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