Sousei no Onmyouji – 28

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Ya know, when the first Basara Kamui first showed up – a super-powerful, sentient Kegare with something of a distinct moral code, I was a bit excited. But like the Arrancar in Bleach, there have now been so many different Basara with such short lifespans, they’ve become less fascinating and more, well, boring. This week’s Basara Kinasa doesn’t help matters, even if he’s got impeccable manners and a gun from Puella.

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The predictable Roku and Benio pattern of encountering a foe, throwing everything they’ve got at it to absolutely no avail, and getting bailed out by a third party, is similarly wearing thin; not a good sign considering there’s so much more show left.

Kinasa is merely filler to stop our heroes in our tracks, but they don’t really learn anything or gain any new strength: they’re merely saved, once again, by Sae’s mysterious powers, after Sae disobeys them for the hundredth time. I’m also baffled that Kinako never conjures child locks while in RV Mode.

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What makes Roku and Benio look even weaker is when Unomiya Tenma, the most powerful of the 12 Guardians, arrives, just ’cause, and dispatches both Kinasa and the Dragon Spot with one swing of his sword and one word (“Close!”).

We’ve been led to believe that with resonance this duo can really make things happen, but it’s almost as if they’ve regressed. Granted, perhaps the Basara are getting more powerful, but the same pattern has played out each time, and I don’t really care about the Basara, so it’s hard to gauge how tough an enemy is. They seem to either defeat it instantly, or are totally overpowered and in need of outside help.

In any case, this last dragon spot drop until Kyoto, and Tenma will be their escort. Sae seems eager to go, so Benio and Rokuro follow.  Mayura’s episode was a nice change of pace, but a return to the same-old-same-old just didn’t do it for me. I want to see more movement in the plot and less disposable Basara.

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Kekkai Sensen – 12 (Fin)

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Life isn’t like a dream, to sit back and experience or be amazed when you find yourself able to take control. It’s a game; The Game, and it can’t be won unless you stand up, move forward, and play. This week Leo is at his lowest point, but thanks to the light and love of those he’s surrounded himself with, he’s able to deflect the more petty games of the King of Depravity (who lets him go, figuring he’ll get an entertaining show regardless), and starts is ascent back onto the real game board, where the objective is to save Black, White, and the World.

Good things come to those that wait, and after waiting the entire Summer for Blood Blade Battlefront to return with its 46-minute finale, I can report that they did a great job wrapping things up, sticking with the same themes of the previous eleven episodes: life and love; friendship and belonging; teamwork and cooperation, which prevail even on the darkest night since the First Collapse.

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As far as game boards go, Hellsalem’s Lot gets trashed this week, but the wide-scale destruction of HLC’s buildings and infrastructure underscore’s the show’s general apathy for those things. Things can be repaired, rebuilt, replaced. Not so with human souls. Of far more interest to the show is that the collection of souls we’ve watched thus far make it out of this tumult. The accounting of material collateral damage is, well, immaterial.

In fact, the only thing keeping total apocalypse at bay isn’t a wall or a dam or a generator; it’s a force field with will, located within White. That barrier is now failing, and Leo’s the only one who can save her, by freeing Black from his possession.

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Once Femt frees him, Leo heads upwards and forwards with this objective in mind, forsaking all other considerations. The thing is, all Hell is literally starting to break loose, including an army of zombies risen to spice things up.

Thankfully for Leo, his comrades at Libra have his back, his front, his top and bottom and his sides, as they utilize their unique skills to clear a path, all the while warning Leo in one way or another not to be too reckless; they’re not doing this so he can sacrifice himself, but so he can save the world and come back none the worse for wear.

This sequence of encounters with his comrades serves as a fitting way to give each of them a curtain call, since this is the finale and all.

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Meanwhile, at the church where Black/The King of Despair wait, Klaus is there to save Black from “himself”, or rather the entity possessing him. This takes all of Klaus’ not inconsiderable strength, but he buys just enough time to keep Black alive so that Leo can do what he has to do.

Earlier, Femt calls The King of Despair “Watchman”, as he has been around throughout human history, making sure there’s enough “nonsense” in the world to keep things interesting. That makes him responsible for a massive array of atrocity and yes despair, but were it not for him, Adam and Eve would never have left the Garden of Eden and grown; i.e. woken up from their dreams and started playing The Game.

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Then Leo confronts Black, uses his eyes—one of which was damaged getting there—and Black’s love for and devotion to White, to separate him from the King of Despair.

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Now that William is himself again and Mary is shaken out of her funk, the two reunite, and Will is able to use his innate power to fully repair, or rather rebuild, the city’s spiritual barrier, ending the crisis. When he does so, Mary disappears, which neither Will nor Leo are happy about, but she’ll always be in their hearts, and as she insisted, even a world without her physical presence continues to turn. In fact, it’s a world that wouldn’t be possible without her sacrifice.

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Once the barrier is restored, the process of rebuilding the city commences, and it isn’t long before life returns to “normal” for Leo and Libra, the kind of normal that isn’t normal anywhere else, but is nevertheless a normal Leo has not only gotten used to but come to love. As he writes his sister, he’s not quite done living and working in Hellsalem’s Lot, but it’s thanks to her light that he’s able to survive each day there.

After the credits, a man pinstriped suit picks up a coin and whistles the King of Despair’s familiar tune. The Watchman always comes back, and is always watching, and the game is always in progress. But as this finale’s events demonstrated, the human soul won’t be so easily defeated, as long as that soul faces the light and takes at least one step forward.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 24 (Fin)

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Hannah (Braverade): Here we are: the final dish, which after watching I considered deserved a spot among the best of the series, for various reasons, but most notably because it didn’t try to do too much. With only two challengers left, the show could really focus in depth on their two dishes and get down to the delicious culinary details. In effect, this was like an informal Shokugeki: Hayama and Souma going at it with everything they’ve got.

Zane (sesameacrylic): A delicious final ep to be sure, Han! Glad to be contributing for this final episode of a show I handed off to you to to my heavier Summer workload, though I still watched it along with you. And I agree that while it’s no episode 12 or 14, this episode is indeed required watching that gets at the essence of the show: smart culinary commentary backing up a good old-fashioned shonen-style duel with food instead of weapons.

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Hannah (Braverade): In the process of dueling, Souma, and for that manner many other characters, not only developed their characters further through their processes, influences, and innovations, but changed the minds of their peers in the process, or at least gave them a better understanding of who he/they are.

Zane (sesameacrylic): That’s quite a mouthful there, but I think I see what you’re getting at. Take Erina. She’s looked down on Souma all this time—literally, since she’s in the luxury box for this competition, above the fray and all—but this last dish, and the manner in which Souma came upon it, not through perfection but failure, learning from each and every loss, basically forced Erina to, at the very least, kinda-sorta acknowledge him.

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Hannah (Braverade): Exactly. They don’t even meet in this episode, but Erina can’t dismiss the five judges’ reactions to Souma’s dish, nor the final score, which is only one point below spice expert Hayama (who clearly expected to win running away, not by a squeaker) and two points below her own cousin Alice.

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Zane (sesameacrylic): The similar unveiling of the two dishes as “fragrance bombs” was pretty clever, and really expressed the impact that “contained” spiced dishes make on the nose. Even cleverer was the fact the bombs worked in different ways, as did the impact of the two dishes. Hayama’s was like a piercing spear, but Souma’s was more like hit combos from a mixed martial artist.

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Hannah (Braverade): The show wisely avoided letting the hero Win It All. Rather, this is another failure for Souma, who wanted to win but didn’t. But failures have driven him to become a better chef, and this one will be no different. And what a close loss it was. Setting aside the one-point difference, the scoring shows that two judges clearly liked Hayama’s dish more while the other three were firmly in Souma’s corner.

The fact that had this been an official shokugeki, Souma would have won 3-2, and the resulting heated argument among the judges, proves that Souma was even closer to winning that the one-point difference indicates on its face.

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Zane (sesameacrylic): For all the excitement and delectableness of the final two candidates, the episode still manages to save plenty of time for a nice epilogue. I’ve always liked when the show simply lets the characters have fun and blow off steam after a big battle, as they do here with a party congratulating not only Souma and Megumi, but Marui and Takumi. The Aldini brothers are there, and so is Nikumi, showing that those who enter Souma’s orbit don’t easily leave it.

Hannah (Braverade): Hojo admitting she misjudged Megumi was also a nice little moment. Hojo wasn’t the deepest character, but I appreciated that the show didn’t forget about There’s also an interesting tension between those at the Polar Star party and those who aren’t: Alice, Ryo and Hisako aren’t in that social circle, and neither is Hayama, who is content to carry a piss-drunk Jun, his savior, mentor, and muse, to bed.

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Zane (sesameacrylic): The show also smartly ends with some nice Souma/Megumi moments. Souma tells her “I like your cooking” the same way you’d confess to someone, and Megumi reacts appropriately. Then the show closes with a callback to the first episode when Souma subjected Hinako to peanut butter calamari. This time he uses yogurt, which is even dirtier looking when Megumi’s disgust is visualized as softcore tentporn.

Hannah (Braverade): Fortunately, this show had a lot more to offer than hilariously wrong foodgasm visualizations. Like Souma’s curry risotto omelette rice, it leaves me wanting more, like to know who will ultimately win the autumn elections. I suspect this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Food Wars.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 24 (Fin)

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All good things must come to an end, whether it’s the most charming and engaging romance in recent memory, or a lovely but ultimately dead-end relationship between two incompatible people. Yes, that’s right, kids, this also marks the end of Rinko+Takeo, as Ichinose swoops in, sweeps Rinko off her feet, places her on a bed of maringue, and drizzles caramel sauce on her.

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…PSYCH! They remain a couple to the end. Ichinose is unsuccessful in stealing her away, despite his firm believe that A.) Rinko is his muse, and B.) he’s a better fit for her. Takeo, as usual, is a worrywort who finds it necessary to prepare for a life without Rinko should Ichinose succeed, as dense to the depths of Rinko’s love as Rinko is of Ichinose’s feeling.

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Even though we knew there was no way in hell this couple would break up in the last episode, it still managed to maintain a respectable tension, as we basically absorbed Takeo’s anxiety. But despite his worrying, he puts up a brave front, and doesn’t despise Ichinose. In fact, for all their differences, he can relate to him simply because he too likes Rinko. Suna, meanwhile, is just glad to see these new sides of Takeo; it means he’s growing as a man.

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Takeo also suspects, quite correctly, Rinko has no clue about Ichinose’s feelings, but is simply helping him out because she’s a good person, because he asked, and because she loves cakes. When Ichinose forgets his tools (no doubt distracted by Rinko), Takeo has no problem answering the call and bringing them with his superhuman speed. And as he watches Ichinose work, Takeo is rooting for him to win. He can win the pastry competition; Takeo is simply hoping he’ll lose the competition for Rinko’s heart.

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Ichinose himself can’t help but regard Takeo as a good man too, even if he feels he’s the better match for Rinko. It’s a great dynamic, with no one overtly evil or villainous or ridiculous. Even Ichinose’s extreme bluntness in his intentions as expressed to Takeo and Suna make sense, considering Ichi is a far better pastry person than people person.

He wins the Gold with a pastry containing all of the same qualities as Rinko, even naming it after her before confessing his love and asking her out—in front of Takeo and Suna, no less!

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Rinko is shocked and taken completely by surprise, but it doesn’t take long for her to formulate her response: She’s fine helping him out at the pastry shop, but she’s no muse, and her heart belongs to Takeo, as it has always belonged since she first laid eyes on the big lug. All of Takeo’s anxiety washes away in the warmth of that pronouncement, and shortly afterwards, Takeo gives her a big ol’ hug and does something he’s been working hard to do since they became a couple: call her Rinko.

Appropriately, it’s as big a deal for her to hear him say her first name as it is for him to say it, so when Takeo promises he’ll learn to use it more casually, I was also thinking Rinko would, at the same time, learn to hear it without her heart melting into goo.

An there you have it, peeps: My Love Story!! (Well, not mine…theirs). It has been quite a fun ride, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ll dearly miss this day-brightening, mold-breaking show, which is the first this Summer to have the good sense and manners to thank the audience for watching at the very end! Trust me, show: the pleasure was all ours.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 23

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After Group B’s solid showing, it’s Group A’s turn to shine, and shine they do, and every candidate shines through their own unique methods and specific culinary specialty. And while I get how compressing everyone’s evaluation into such a small space increases the tension and excitement, this second straight episode of such an approach still felt rushed and a times, formulaic—like the show was scrambling to get to everyone before the final showdown between Souma and Akira next week.

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This episode also suffered from a slightly weaker field, starting with Ryo, Alice’s aide. Now, I haven’t quite gotten what I believe to be my fair share of Alice this season, so to focus so much on her aide felt like a poorer use of time, despite his need to compete as a candidate. Still, Ryo makes a pretty intense impresson once he slips on his bandanna and his personality becomes a lot more pushy and assertive, essentially daring the judges to “slurp” and “stuff” to best enjoy his cognac lobster curry.

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The candidate I care most about this week, Nikumi, went next, and didn’t embarrass herself, though like her, I thought she’d score in the 90’s like Ryo. Her pork belly curry looked amazing, and her grateful reaction to Souma’s praise was classic Cute Nikumi. While a much lower profile character than Nikumi or Megumi, Ryoko also distinguished herself by tying Nikumi, thanks to a curry that showcases her mastery of fermentation, as well as time and patience. Still, like Nikumi, she’s visibly pissed she didn’t score higher.

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Rounding out the quartet this week were two more Polar Star residents, who end up tying for second place with 88 points each, 2 higher than Nikumi and Ryoko. Marui, whose room has always been commandeered by the rest of his dorm-mates, shows off his knowledge of culinary history by blending curry udon and vichyssoise. The quiet, messy-haired Shun impresses with a curry in which everything, from the eggs and bacon to the salt that seasons everything, is smoked.

This week ends with two pairs of candidates tied for second and third, with perhaps the two toughest candidates yet to present their dishes. So it’s pretty likely, barring any disasters, that Ryoko and Nikumi will be bumped in what the preview declares will be the final episode of Food Wars.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 23

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Quite unexpectedly, we enter the penultimate episode of this lovely series with the most profound and troubling dilemma yet to face the lovely couple of Takeo and Yamato. The former has encouraged the latter to work part-time at her favorite patisserie, Les Cerises. In the process, he may have just handed his girlfriend over to a superior potential mate. At least, that’s the feeling he gets once he learns that the young, up-and-coming patissier, Ichinose, is on first-name basis with “Rinko.”

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At first, Takeo is intent on being happy and supportive of Yamato as she pursues her passion; a craft she’s very good at but until now hasn’t gotten professional exposure to. It’s also a craft Takeo doesn’t share with her, and it isn’t even something he can talk with her that much about. Ichinose can, and he’s able to dazzle Yamato in ways Takeo can not: with his pastry expertise.

That lack of a shared passion (ignoring their passion for each other) combined with the ease with which Ichinose calls Yamato Rinko (and the difficulty Takeo has even thinking about doing the same) combine to create a profound inferiority in Takeo, as he watches things unfold from afar without fully understanding the full context…nor the fact that Yamato may not actually like Ichinose that way, despite her respect and admiration for his mad skillz.

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While Takeo considers that Yamato could well be falling for Ichinose, Suna all but confirms Ichinose is falling for Yamato, judging from his careful analysis of Ichinose’s stare.

As abruptly as Ichinose enters the Ore Monogatari!! world, he’s still given a fair hearing and development all his own. He’s a talented fellow, but up to this point been a bit of a lone wolf lacking a certain…something that deprived his work of warmth and love. The more time he spends with Yamato, the more he comes to think of her as his muse.

So when Takeo comes by the shop and Ichinose learns he’s Yamato’s boyfriend, I can understand, considering his inexperience in dealing with such matters, why Ichinose is so curt and abrupt in running up to Takeo and demanding he break up with Yamato immediately, as he sees himself as the better fit. And Takeo understands too.

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Takeo put Yamato in the position to meet someone who might be better for her, and he can’t dismiss that possibility out of hand. It’s pretty devastating how effectively and succinctly Ichinose wraps up Takeo and Yamato’s unlikely relationship, even if he’s oversimplifying and underestimating the depth of Yamato’s love for Takeo.

It’s not a coincidence that right after Takeo concedes that “there may be others who are better” for Yamato out there, that we cut to someone who’s been tossed around by the show as someone who may be better for him in Suna’s big sister Ai, who may even understand him more than Suna. Takeo’s greatest strength, throughout his life and the show, has been putting others before himself, to make those others happy.

This week we see why that’s a weakness, as he puts himself and Yamato in a pretty good position to destory everything they’ve built these last twenty-odd episodes. But again, that’s only if we take Takeo’s inferiority and Ichinose’s desires as the law of the land. While things are in a precarious position, we have yet to hear how Yamato—no, Rinko—feels about things. And I wouldn’t be surprised she has no intention of switching boyfriends.

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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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Ore Monogatari!! – 22

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YAY! It’s Suna and Yukika’s time to shine! It’s their turn for falling into love and floating around on a cloud like Takeo and Yamato! It’s time for Yukika to create a new PURAIMUTAIMU to replace the one from Kindergarten! They go to the zoo with the show’s lead couple, and both seem to enjoy themselves. We’re headed towards a foregone conclusion, right?!

Well…not so fast, there.

Yes, they do have a good time at the zoo; initially Yukika talk to Suna or even be too close to him without becoming paralyzed, but when the other couple encourages her to make some memories, she pipes up, gets them into an animal trivia competition, and singlehandedly wins it, but only because they were counted as a couple when Suna takes her hand. It all looks very fun and pleasant and awkward in all the ways first dates can be.

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But the problem isn’t whether they had fun; it’s a matter of magnitude. Suna had a nice enough time; he didn’t not enjoy himself. But from Yukika’s perspective, it was categorically THE HAPPIEST DAY OF HER LIFE. It’s the same with how they feel about each other: Suna doesn’t dislike Yukika, but Suna is the love of Yukika’s life and has been for most of her conscious life.

She’s placed him on so high a pedestal that his comparative wishy-washiness actually ends up hurting her. Last week I entertained the possibility Suna actually liked Yukika, but she didn’t let him finish his sentence, but in the absense of further evidence, we have to conclude he doesn’t like her enough. As much as we may want it to work out, and for Suna to finally start dating a nice girl, it’s just not going to work.

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Soon Yukika becomes unable to continue working towards something she can’t imagine ever working out, due to that magnitude problem, and resolves to cut herself off from not only Suna, but Takeo and Yamato, cold turkey. This is an obvious overreaction,but an understandable one considering where she’s coming from socially (there’s a reason she’s so good at zoo trivia; she spends much of her time reading). What I like is that Takeo and Yamato don’t try to force the issue or over-meddle, they just give Yukika the opportunity to reassess her next move.

In the end, she too thinks severing all ties with the three others would be too sad, and Suna meets with her to give her a gift for her ten years of chocolates, and they reach a kind of closure, agreeing to remain friends. I appreciate the show didn’t try to hard to force Suna into what in hindsight was a pretty long-shot relationship. Suna is, despite his forelorn appearance and lack of girlfriend, actually a pretty content fellow, and it would take a much more powerful romantic spark than the one Yukika was capable of mustering to convince him to leave that place of contentment and try something new.

And so it is with a sense of logical resignation we consign Yukika to Ore Monogatari!!’s roster of “Losers”, joining Saijou and Ai and underlining that sometimes even when conditions are right things don’t always work out as perfectly as they did for our lead couple.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 21

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Sleeping Souma was a red herring! He was just nodding off a bit waiting for the perfect time to add his spices and fill the kitchen arena with a tantalizing aroma that even Hayama Akira must acknowledge has promise. But that’s pretty much it for Souma this week, as all eyes are on Megumi in much of the episode’s first half. Just when the “bumpkin” is being chastised for her lack of showmanship and clumsiness, she unveils a giant monkfish hanging from a tripod.

After remembering how hard she trained back home, under the tutelage of a big burly fisherman, she prays for Souma to lend her some of his courage, then butchers the ungainly fish like a pro, impressing everyone, even then very hard to impress Hojo Miyoko. Both girls have had to work that much harder to gain the respect of their elders due to their gender, and in Megumi’s case, her gentleness. But she’s a lot tougher thatn she looks, and proves it again here.

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With that performance, the clock runs out and the cooking is complete. Now all that’s left is for the five judges to grade the students’ dishes on a scale of 0-100 (with each judge having 20 points to award). Even though they heap praise on the first dish, they award a measly 33 points, jaded as they are by years of impeccable culinary excellence, “pretty good for a student” ain’t gonna cut it.

Student after student fails to break 40 points (50 being something to be proud of), and when Sadatsuka Nao unveils her putrid-smelling dish, I figured her to be the first chef to earn precisely zero points. And yet, she not only broke 40 point barrier, but was awarded 84 out of 100 to shoot up to the lead. Once the judges held their noses and tasted her horrifying kusaya-infused jet-black curry, they became enthralled in its bold, assertive flavors. In other words, they all fell under her curse. BDSM also comes into it, as all the judges willfully submit to Nao’s gastronomic punishment.

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With Nao having set the standard for her group thus far in the most unorthodox way possible, her arch-nemesis and rival for Erina’s heart (and verbal abuse) Arato Hisako steps to the plate with a seemingly safe-looking curry bowl made with mutton. But her approach, steeped in her family’s traditional focus on Eastern medicine and medicinal cuisine, has the opposite effect on the judges, purifying and revitalizing them rather than beating them into submission.

Hisako’s dish is essentially the antidote to Nao’s, which is apropos considering their diametrically-opposed personalities. Both are great chefs, but Nao cooks for her own sake, while Arato claims to cook for the sake of others, including Erina. She even gives Nao a bowl, destroying “Dark Nao” in a cascade of medicinal light and giving rise to a much purer “White Nao.” Nao’s defeat is so complete, her masochistic side causes her to shift her fixation from Erina to Hisako. Love is in the air!

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I’m guessing this is how the remainder of the episodes will pan out: episode 22 will cover the judging of the Aldini brothers, Alice, Megumi, and possibly a few others not seen in the preview (like Miyoko and Yuuki); episode 23 be Souma and Akira, and 24 will be the wrap up. That’s assuming this show will end at just 24 episodes…which if you ask me and Hannah, would be a crime.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 21

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For White Day, Takeo gives Yamato cookies he baked. You heard that right: gives her cookies he baked. And while he’s his own toughest critic on said cookies, the fact that they even exist bowls Yamato over; she declares them too precious to eat—and meaning it—but still takes a bite and is delighted with them. Finally, Takeo gets to experience what she’s been able to since they met: watch someone he loves enjoying something he made.

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The Valentines/White Day proceedings were an effective and logical segue to the next arc, “Find Love For Suna.” Turns out there was no one to find; someone was watching him and circling him from afar all along, becoming a little bolder every year, especially after Valentines, and possibly borne out of the knowledge she’s running out of school years to follow Suna. This girl, Amami Yukika comes close enough that she enters Takeo’s keen “follower radar”, misjudging her as someone with malevolent intentions, then rescuing her letter from the river.

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If any show can make a stalker girl sympathetic, it’s Ore Monogatari!!, as well as the talented voice of Kayano Ai, who gives Amami the right blend of delicate femininity and forthright determination. Judging from Suna’s photo album, Amami has literally been in the background of Suna and Takeo’s lives since kindergarten when she fell for him when him after he saved her from a thrown dodgeball. The trouble is, she hasn’t made any moves to get him to acknowledge her (all her Valentines letters were anonymous), so she hasn’t been acknowledged.

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“Takeo Cupid” wants to help in any way he can, but he also realizes it’s Amami who will have to do the heavy lifting like, you know, talking to Suna. All she really needs is a push…or rather, several pushes, as she’s so overwhelmed by suddenly being in the foreground with Suna (rather than watching him from afar) it’s hard to breathe, let alone talk. Still, when he not only refers to her by name but the fact he’s known of her existence since kindergarten, she confesses her love to him right there in the street, with Takeo looking on. Then she runs.

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This is where a second nudge by Takeo is needed. He brings her back to Suna (who almost seemed to be waiting for them), where she tells him she wants him to watch her and learn more about her before he gives her his response. I thought this was overly cautious on her part, since it wasn’t completely outside the realm of possibility he’d say “sure, let’s go out.” Suna isn’t opposed to going out with girls, just girls who talk shit about Takeo.

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They exchange cell numbers, and an initial bond is formed, to my relief. But Amami needs a couple more nudges, as she finds it hard to break out of her usual routine of stalking-kinda-not-stalking. Takeo sends Suna off to walk her home, but she still can’t talk, so Takeo then brings in Yamato for a female perspective on the thing. She shares her experience having difficulty making moves toward a relationship, but as we’ve seen the benefits of making those moves have been more than worth the stress involved.

Ultimately, they determine the best way forward is for Amami, Suna, Takeo and Yamato to do a double date, in this case to the zoo, which Suna promptly agrees to. Takeo tells him he doesn’t have to, but Suna knows that, and wouldn’t say he’s going if he didn’t want to. That doesn’t mean he’s going to say straight-up “Yes, I want to go on a double date with Amami to see if it will work out because she seems like a genuinely good person and possibly a good match as well.”

Even if asked directly, he won’t answer that directly, but the seeming lack of enthusiasm can’t be taken as an actual lack of it. I imagine he’s just as interested to see where this goes as Takeo, Yamato…and me. Lord knows Suna has demonstrated throughout the show that he deserves a good woman, and not just because he’s good-looking.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 20

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With just four episodes left after this one (barring a second 26-episode season, not outside the realm of possibility), Food Wars will likely dedicate them to the Autumn Elections, meaning it no longer has the luxury of spending an episode focusing on one, two, a handful, or a smaller group of students.

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It must focus on all of them, including quite a number of recently-added newbies, all from diverse backgrounds and with diverse goals. One uniting factor is that a lot of them either admire Souma and want to see what he can do, or want to beat him…or both. Still, the character sprawl and the necessity of checking in on everyone both before and during the big preliminary round results in a somewhat breathless, unwieldy affair.

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If, for instance, you like what Alice is up to in her futuristic sci-fi kitchen, or what Nikumi is carving up, that’s kinda too bad, since the episode can only afford occasional peeks at each chef in order to cover all of them. New characters like Hayama, Hojou and Nao (whose late introductions are another hint that this show could keep going after this first round of 24) eat up some of that time.

Everyone’s jockeying for space and attention, and the episode gets a little whiplashed. At the same time, that’s part of the appeal: variety of the spice of life, be it real spices, or characters and methods of cooking, and there’s plenty of it here.

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The main rivalry in this preliminary three-hour curry cookoff seems to be Souma vs. Hayama, and both have been preparing for months, pulling many all-nighters in the process. But while Hayama seems on top of his game and is already attracting the attention of the prestigious judges, when we check in on Souma for the first time, he’s asleep. Looks like he’ll have to come back from behind one more time.

Let’s face it: We know he’s going to be one of those eight finalists to move on to the elections proper, but knowing that is neither as important nor all that detrimental to our present anticipation and future enjoyment in watching how he succeeds, as well as who the other seven will be. There are so many great chefs to root for and choose from.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 20

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In a show full of romantic firsts, it’s pretty amazing OreMono!! has kept the Valentine’s Day/Chocolate episode in its back pocket…where one would assume it would melt! But here it finally is, with only four more episodes to go, and I think holding out was a good move, what with Takeo and Rinko so well-established as a loving couple.

I like how once more Takeo’s secondary friends come to him looking for help by having a group Valentines Day with Yamato’s friends. Suna, ever the stalwart best mate, deflects them, saying they had their fun for Christmas (and one of them, Osamu, even ended up dating one of the girls).

Even better, while Takeo appreciates Suna standing up for his right to be alone with Yamato, the truth is he doesn’t mind making it a group thing at all, nor does Yamato, for they are always looking for ways to spread the love they already have in droves for each other. Suna calls him a “do-gooder”, but c’mon now…so is he.

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Yamato is also eager to spread her wide knowledge of baking chocolate-making with her girlfriends (including Nanako, who wants to make something for Osamu) while working on a secret side-project specially for Takeo. It’s great to see both the boys looking so forward to getting chocolate while the girls look forward to giving it.

Valentine’s Day arrives, and we’re reminded how popular Suna is with the ladies when a small avalanche of chocolate pours out of his locker. Takeo asks a question on my mind as well—what does he do with it all—and he simply says he accepts it, gives reciprocating gifts on White Day to those who gave him their names…and that’s it. As much as Takeo may want his buddy to find love, no one has “clicked” for Suna the way Rinko clicked with him. That many of the girls who pursued Suna talked ill of Takeo behind his back surely contributed to that lack of clicking.

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The after-school Valentine’s Day group date goes swimmingly, with the guys convincing the girls to distribute the chocolates they made as if they were giving them to guys they liked. Each successive group event has had the girls gravitating less towards Suna alone and more evenly to the other guys. In a perfect world, each girl would click with each boy like Rinko x Takeo and Nanako x Osamu, but for now they’re content to exchange contact info and hang out sometime even without Takeo or Rinko around. Progress!

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But Takeo is confused—stunned, really—when Rinko suddenly says she’s in a hurry and scurries off. He’s so shocked he can’t quite walk in a straight line and mistakes a vending machine for his front door, because he expected to get chocolate from the girl he liked, for the first time…and didn’t.

Now, I was pretty sure, with so much time left, Rinko was “busy” getting Takeo’s chocolate. Then Takeo remembers two things: she actually did give him cookies at the cafe, and he simply neglected to savor them; and she spoke with great longing for fancy expensive chocolates.

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Takeo then decides to make up for the fact he didn’t properly enjoy Yamato’s chocolate buy buying her the chocolate she said she wanted, a nice subversion of the whole “Girls give on Valentines/Guys give on White Day” system.

But on his way out—and thank GOD Rinko was a safe distance from the outward-swinging door, or she would have been launched off the balcony—she’s standing out there with the biggest, prettiest chocolate dessert she’s ever made for Takeo.

And while they don’t end up locking lips, Takeo does send one hell of an air kiss off his balcony to Rinko, who catches it with giddy elation.

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So all in all, it’s a great Valentine’s for Takeo. The next day, he gets one more surprise (as do we!) when a very pleased-looking Mariya presents both him and Suna with obligation chocolate, a day after Valentines out of respect for Rinko. After she takes her leave Suna says she’s a good person, and that people who fall for Takeo—his sister, Rinko, Mariya—tend to be good people.

That gets Takeo thinking that a good person is what Suna needs, not just some fangirl who thinks it’s cool to talk shit about his friend. And as they shuffle off to class, someone who is potentially another one of those good people watches them go from around the corner…a silver-haired girl who must’ve given Suna chocolates. Could love finally be on the horizon for our boy Suna? I’d be down for that!

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Shokugeki no Souma – 19

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The Autumn Election selections have been made, and Groups A and B will duke it out, with the survivors moving on to the tournament proper, where they’ll be observed by some of the finest restauranteurs in the business (no surprise there), and where failure will almost certainly ensure they have to futures in the industry.

The show shifts into overdrive juggling both all the side characters we know (like the Aldinis and Nakiris) while introducing a bunch more (Hojo and Nao) while elevating mostly background characters into contention with the better known chefs (Ryo, Hisako).

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Souma is straight-up fired up, and can’t wait to get into the fray. But when participants receive a vague hint about the nature of the elections—indicating a “curry dish” will be the thing by which they’ll be judged, Souma decides to track down a Totsuki professor who is not only an Alumna but his dad’s former kohai and dormmate at Polar Star.

This turns out to be Shiomi Jun, a P.E. outfit-wearing scientific master of spice who instantly reminded me of Working!!’s Popura due to her size, which misleads many to believe she’s a junior high student or younger (in reality, Jun is 34).

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At first, Jun isn’t pleased to see the son of a senpai who regularly used her as a test subject for his nastier dishes, and expresses that displeasure by giving him a sequence of Olympic-caliber punches. But since Megumi tagged along with Souma, and both she and Jun are experts in circular apologetics, it isn’t long before Jun forgets about her outrage over Souma’s presence and just starts geeking out over her speciality, spices, giving them a full-on lecture during which Megumi takes careful notes.

Megumi and Souma are “saved” by another newcomer, the tan, silver-haired Hayama Akira, Jun’s aide who transforms her scientific theories into real cooking. He’s as dependent on her (and his excellent nose) as she is on him; it’s a symbiotic relationship. And Akira takes the opportunity to show Megumi and Souma what he can do with curry, which he and Jun just happen to be researching, which is also the theme of the elections.

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The show gets into the nitty-gritty of what makes a simply good curry to what makes a transcendentally awesome curry, and it really comes down to little tweaks in the cooking process, combined with impeccable skills and timing. And while Souma didn’t know Akira existed, Akira knows him, and warns him that using inspiration to overcome restrictions won’t be enough to get to the top of Totsuki (which, duh). 

As usual, Souma tries to get the last word in, diplomatically thanking Akira for the food and promising to return the favor by making an even better curry for him, but Jun, upset they ran out on her lecture, interrupts Souma’s monologue by bursting in the door he’s about to exit through, slamming the doorknob into his gut. It’s hilarious, but also appropriate to the task at hand. As usual, Souma will have to speak, and convince all the naysayers, with his cooking in the next four episodes, not with words.

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