Qualidea Code – 04

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Qualidea Code is a flawed show, but it’s showed signs of incremental improvement in the last two episodes. Lask week solved the “not enough peril” problem; while this week fixes Ichiya’s “boundless bluster” problem, delivering a much-needed dose of Canaria’s humility.

Indeed, while the turnabout in his personality was, uh, rapid, rapid change is possible in the midst of the person he cares more about than anyone else getting seriously hurt in a battle he instigated.

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As the exterior peril intensifies, internal strife fades away for the good of the whole group. Thus Ichiya’s improved personality raises all boats, showing that when the going (finally) gets tough, he can count on his fellow heads and their subheads.

Ichiya presents this new-and-improved, common sense-armed self to the adult bosses, who endorse his plan to ally with Kanagawa and Chiba to defeat the Leviathan properly.

He’s learned his lesson, and hopefully retired his tired catchphrase “I’m all we need.” Clearly both he and they need more than just him; they need each other, working together.

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His new plan for attack is neither nonsensical nor reckless; it is actually pretty by-the-book and straightforward, with each city playing to its strengths in an effort to distract, misdirect, and get through the armor of the Unknown.

Ichiya also leaves Aoi in charge of keeping an eye on Cana, who wakes up shortly after he departs for battle. She immediately sits up and gets dressed to catch up with him, but while Aoi tries to stop her, her fellow Tokyo broom-riders suggest a shortcut and for Aoi to accompany them.

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Kazumi uses explosives and something called “dead space” to suspend their assault train into a position from which the ground forces can attack, while Hime surfaces her submarine carrier right beside the enemy to deliver a blow that still isn’t quite enough.

Turns out, the five fighting the battle can’t defeat the Leviathan without their sixth, Canaria, who comes in singing and buffing everyone around her. Realizing he’s stronger with everyone than all alone, Ichiya scoops up Hime and flies her to the spot she needs to get to to take out the Leviathan.

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Remember what I said about QC being flawed? Well, while the peril is nicely pitched and the characters have gotten more interesting…the animation during the climax of the battle stinks, with the frame-rate dropping until it’s just a Powerpoint deck of still shots.

The show tries to pass this off as a “slowing of time” effect for enhanced drama, but actually has the opposite effect since at the end of the day, things weren’t really animated at a crucial part of the episode. The result was underwhelming and sloppy.

However, the episode makes up for that a bit with the aftermath, when Ichiya takes Cana back the hospital on his back and everyone celebrates a great victory….only for tragedy to suddenly, unexpectedly strike once more.

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A post-credits scene with Ichiya and Cana has all the makings of a quiet epilogue to close the episode out, but for Asanagi’s shocked, pained reactions to seeing something on Aoi’s neck, indicating she, Cana, and the others who broke Cana out of the hospital went through a “no-entry zone.” We also see flashing red lights in the ocean, and one of those foreboding seagulls gets killed in the sky.

Just as Ichiya is telling Canaria he’s asking for a demotion that would swap their ranks, making her head, and telling her how he doesn’t care about anyone in the world as much as her, a huge mass falls out of the sky and smites Canaria. One moment, she’s there smiling, the next, a perfectly circular hole in the ground, and a spot of blood in the water.

I’m not sure exactly what happened here, and it surely adds to the mystery of what the adults aren’t telling the kids. But whatever we learn or however Ichiya deals, killing off a likable main character in the fourth episode is a bold move.

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Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 05

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Souma made a big, bold bet, one that Nikumi, for one, is none too pleased about, because unlike us she can’t be sure that he’ll win, which means someone she deeply respects will be throwing their life of cooking away if he loses.

The wager also attracts the attention of a young, eager Totsuki junior high student who spends way more time with journalism than cooking. After relentlessly courting Souma for an exclusive, Souma uses him as his taste tester.

The dish for the Shokugeki is the same thing Souma served Mimasaka in his dorm when the challenge was made: beef stew. And unlike (or more likely, like) many Mimasaka’s previous 99 victims, he’s trying to switch things up by being very transparent about what he’s doing.

Souma knows he’s not going to win by being secretive; Mimasaka will find out or predict what he’s up to. Nor can he win by emulating his opponent’s specialty: Mimasaka doesn’t have one. Instead, Souma is treating this like the ultimate creative battle…against himself.

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After her loss to Hayama, Arato is too ashamed to stay by Erina’s side, and takes a leave of absense. Mind you, she makes this decision before Erina had a chance to talk about the match with her (during which time she’d likely have told her she was proud of her effort and wanted her to remain by her side).

On the bright side, when Erina needs the next volume in a shoujo manga she’s reading, the absence of Arato means Souma has something to compensate her for in exchange for her tasting duties (since someone at the dorm has the complete set).

Erina has her largest role in an episode this season, and she shines. By not making things easy for Souma, she (intentionally or not) contributes greatly to setting Souma on the proper path, being immediately dismissive of his pathetic diner stew (and its white miso secret ingredient) without elaborating why.

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While Mimasaka relives the last 28 episodes as Souma, starting back at the diner with Souma’s hometown friends, Nikumi, like Erina, lends Souma a subtle hint for how to proceed in the form of a meat care package, warning him she won’t let him lose and give up being a chef as she runs away flustered.

The final four days leading up to the match pass by in montage form, with Souma ditching the journalist (no longer useful at this stage in his dish development) and Megumi and Nikumi periodically looking in to see how he’s progressing.

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The day of the match Souma must win arrives, judged by five Totsuki alumni (including Dojima, Mizuhara and Hinako), who along with Kikuchi, Tsunozaki, and Erina, imagine how difficult it will be for Souma to break out of the diner mentality of dishes tasting best on the third bite (gourmet dishes must taste good on the first).

Erina expects a crushing defeat for Souma, meaning the end of his stinking up her academy once and for all, right up until she notices what he’s up to down in the arena. Instead of the usual cuts of beef, he goes with high-gelatin oxtail seasoned with cloves to deepen the white miso, and a veggie matignon to add sweetness near the end.

Souma has always been a sponge for culinary knowledge, even if it isn’t being directly taught to him by those he absorbs it from. But he caught on to what Erina was hinting at, as well as the meat that Nikumi gave him, and crafted a game plan for evolving his diner’s signature dish into something one would be proud to serve in the kind of elite gourmet restaurants the judges run.

Conspicuous in his lack of screen timeat the start of the match is Mimasaka; because Souma bet everything on this match, he’s the center of attention, but once he and the crowd notice the opponent, they see that he’s mimicked him in every regard. There is simply no way to surprise Mimasaka; he’s always going to be one step ahead. Oxtail, cloves, matignon – he’s got all that…plus his signature twists that usually corner and decimate his opponents.

Souma will have to weather those twists—some possibly drawn from his own culinary history, some of Mimasaka’s own imagining—keep his cool, and simply out-cook his clone. How will he prevail where 99 chefs fell? Will he put it all on that first bite, or manage to flip the script in a way even Mimasaka could not predict?

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