Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 02

When Souma’s lil’ budding journalist buddy, Whasisname, puts Souma’s profile right next to Kuga’s in the Official Moon Festival Guide, not only Souma, but his closest friends and frenemies are fired up. Nikumi is apologetic she can’t help out, as she’s finding her groove and regaining her charisma with the the Don RS.

Souma seeks the aid of the Nakiris, who happen to have an hour to kill while waiting for festival material to arrive. As a result of their Stagiaire time, Hisako is a lot warmer towards Souma, and Alice has always been friendly with him, so Erina has no choice but to act as a third taste tester.

Rather than cruel and arrogant, the trio is actually level-headed and extremely helpful in analyzing Souma’s ad hoc mapo tofu. It lacks the balance of ma (chilies) and na (numbing peppers) heat crucial in Sichuan cooking.

Getting super food-nerdy, Alice explains how the taste receptors for spiciness are different form the other five tastes, and actually triggers the same neuroreceptors as pain and pleasure, making Kuga’s food painfully spicy yet addictive. Medicinal gourmand Hisako even chimes in with the healing properties of spiciness.

Armed with a wealth of information from three of the best in the business, Souma lays out a plan of research, testing, and tasting to achieve that magic addictive formula. Tadokoro eagerly pledges herself to him, worried (justifiably) that he’d have a hard time assembling a team with so many of his peers off doing their own thing.

That includes Alice, who missed the deadline to register but commandeers Hayama booth with the maternal blessing of Shiomi (who is just happy Akira has friends his own age) and Kurokiba (who is in his “dormant whatever” state…for now).

Souma works tirelessly in the kitchen, developing stronger and stronger levels of pure heat, turning both his and Tadokoro’s lips into swollen masses, but is ultimately cursed by failure. It isn’t just the heat that makes Kuga’s cuisine so powerful—it’s everything around and beneath that spice. Every ingredient in his mapo tofu is carefully custom-made and thoroughly vetted over time.

Souma seems to concede that he may not be able to beat Kuga in Sichuan cuisine…but there are seven other major Chinese regional cuisines, and a gambit from his father prior to a festival where their diner had a booth gives Souma an idea, and with help from Hojo, he’s able to precure the instrument of his grand Chinese pivot.

The day of the start of the Moon Festival arrives, and everyone seems lively, amped-up, and ready to compete for the mouths and money of the masses. Perhaps the funniest sequence in an episode full of pleasant character-based humor is when it’s time to sing Totsuki’s anthem, something neither Souma nor I knew even existed.

And yet everyone, no matter how different they may be in other areas, EVERYONE not only knows every single note and word, but sing it with all the bright-eyed optimism of elementary schoolers.

With the Festival officially in gear, Souma unveils his secret weapon: stone oven-baked black pepper buns. (Mouth watering) His and Tadokoro’s first two customers experience foodgasms…we’ll see if they’re able to make a profit to not get expelled, or beat Kuga at a game he believes is already in the bag.

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Juuni Taisen – 02

Poor Boar is now a puppet of Rabbit’s along with Snake; he’s in the lead. Turns out Monkey (Shuryuu) interrupted her own attempt to form a pacifist alliance by smashing the floor. In doing so, she thwarted a preemptive strike she sensed from one of the others, though apparently she doesn’t suspect the sleepy Rat (Nezumi).

Having holed up in an underground parking garage, Dog (Dotsuku) is our primary POV character this week, and we hear more of his inner thoughts than the words of anyone else. Upon meeting Chicken (Niwatori), he believes he’s better off agreeing to her request to team up, as she possesses a valuable skill by which she can see through the eyes of all of the birds in the city; pretty handy.

Unfortunately for Dog, he’s too confident he can control Niwatori, to the point he’s drugging her with a supersoldier “poison” that powers her up and leads to her crushing his face. Whether Chicken was putting on a meek innocent act all along until then or really couldn’t control the strength Dog gave her, it looks like Dog is now out of the game, marking the second straight POV character who fell by spending too much time in their head and not enough time being very careful.

I don’t know if the same pattern will be followed next week or the week after that, but I got an odd, satisfying feeling of finality from both Boar and Dog’s stories this week; they went as far as they could go, even if they didn’t know they were at the end of their respective roads until it was too late to turn back. There’s a super-abridged version near the end of Horse seeking out Ox as a fellow “moderate”, only to be charged at by Ox like the train behind him.

The only alliance that seems reliable is the one between Rabbit, Snake and Boar, and you can’t really call it that since Snake and Boar no longer have free will, heartbeats, or jewels in their chests. Nevertheless, I liked the parting shot that combined bloody horror of an undead Boar with a Hitchcockian mass of birds surrounding her.

Considering the ominous calculation of this parting scene, I’d wager SuperChicken is primed to peck somebody.

Houseki no Kuni – 01 (First Impressions)

There are instances where 3D CGI has turned me off (Ronja, Berserk) and instances where it just…works. Polygon’s Sidonia no Kishi is one such example, an Orange’s new series Houseki no Kuni is another. Characters are crisp and elegant, with elongated designs reminiscent of fashion illustration and jewel-like hair that casts reflections on the shoulders of their black uniforms.

Another thing HnK has going for it is…it’s just so bizarre. Forget jewel-“like”—the 28 characters are actually humanoid manifestations of gems, all with a “hardness” matching the gem they’re named after. They’re genderless, and also immortal; no matter into how many pieces they shatter, they can be reconstructed.

That’s good, because they shatter often while fending off the Lunarians (Moon-Dwellers) who try to use them to make jewelry. Phosphophyllite, the main protagonist this week, is voiced by Kurosawa Tomoyo (Kumiko from Euphonium), who brings a lot of brightness and humanity to the role of the youngest (and one of the weakest) Gems.

After shattering to pieces simply after their leader Kongou-sensei shouts, Phos is assigned to create a natural history encyclopedia. Their peers, most of whom dismiss them as useless, lazy, dumb, or all of the above, suggest they seek out the reclusive Cinnabar for info on nature, as they’re essentially all alone on the night watch.

While looking for Cinnabar, Phos finds herself nearly a victim of the Lunarians, but is saved by Cinnabar at the last second. Cinnabar (voiced by Komatsu Mikako) has a kind of Midas Touch that turns everything to ruin, and vomits out a poison that consumes the charging Lunarians in an intense but beautifully executed action scene.

Phos tries to lend their arms to keep Cinnabar from falling—and they shatter off—but both Gems are safe, and Phos finally managed to meet the person they were looking for.

The encounter makes Phos feel bad for Cinnabar, and after being repaired by Dr. Rutile, goes back out to where Cinnabar is wandering. Cinnabar (the only Gem with a hardness factor lower than Phos’)  voices their desire to be taken to the moon where there might be a decent use for her, but Phos doesn’t like that fatalistic talk one bit.

After getting some material for their encyclopedia, they vow that they’ll find something better than the night watch that only Cinnabar can do…so Cinnabar can quit talking about leaving for the moon. It’s the beginning of a friendship between two misfits whose collaboration could benefit both in contributing the maximum amount to the group effort.