Takunomi. – 11 – Hot Pot, Hot Sake

Michiru is full of energy and kitted out in full yukata as all four housemates visit a shrine to pray for a prosperous New Year. Since everyone else is in modern garb, Michiru can’t keep up and get lost in the crowd, missing a chance to drink some traditional amazake with the others.

She also gets pretty cold with no coat, so when they get home Kae whips up the perfect meal for a cold day off: hot pot. Nao provides the booze-of-the-week: a special sake called Daishichi Junmai Kimoto, especially well-suited to be enjoyed hot (but also great cold). One thing I didn’t know: how quickly you heat it and the specific temperature results in different flavors being released.

Nao heats it up to “Atsukan” packs a rich punch that goes perfectly with the hot pot proteins, vegetables, and broth. The combination of hot food and hot sake quickly make Michiru very relaxed, changing into her PJ’s and cuddling up to Nao like she’s back home—where she was the talk of the town for her big city exploits.

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Re-Kan! – 07

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Hibiki’s ridiculous generosity and utter inability to say no to a ghost is taking its toll and  burning her out, so her friends stage an intervention on the streets, insisting she needs a break from her supernatural drudgery. They head over to her house, which while not a Gothic haunted mansion, could certainly pass for that house in Kwaidan with a few minor tweaks.

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Hibiki’s dad concurs, and produces a pair of sixth-sense-sealing glasses her mother used to wear when she needed a break from ghosts to, ya know, eat or sleep. I like how this story subverts the standard anime glasses girl trope. Sure, they make her look even more adorable (and more bookish), but they also fundamentally change how she interacts with the world. Simply put: all contact with that which most people cannot see or hear ceases. It really is like a vacation.

But the urge to take them off and sense of who’s floating around her—and more importantly, the urge help them—is strong. So Inoue makes a very childish threat: if she takes off the glasses, they won’t be friends any more, and it works; Hibiki keeps those puppies on like her life depends on it.

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Her sidekicks Roll Call Samurai and Kogal don’t like it, but they’re big enough to realize Hibiki could use a break. But when the little sister of a boy Hibiki is playing with goes missing and it starts to get dark, Hibiki desperately needs more sets of eyes to search for her.

Hibiki makes a very difficult phone call to Inoue, who is studying and absolutely scared shitless by Hibiki’s foreboding ringtone. Hibiki seems ready to accept the end of their friendship, but Inoue assures her not to worry. If it’s an emergency, it’s fine to take the glasses off. Hibiki does, and show us yet again how handy it is to have an army of the dead at one’s disposal.

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The balance of the episode is a New Year’s shrine visit by the whole gang. While I miss Glasses Hibiki, I loved how she lets spirits vote on what she wears, and the fact Inoue got drunk and loose-lipped on Amazake, and her friends decided to get her to open up.

To their disappointment, her response to almost every question is “Nana!”, so ingrained is her love for her late gran. Hibiki, not wanting to do anything untoward, simply asks Inoue if she’ll be friends with her in the next year, for which Inoue offers a more sober tsundere response of “I suppose.”

We finish things off with a fun little brawl between the incorrigible Ero-Neko versus Samurai and the Killer, who are sick of the cat’s sexual harrassment, as Kogal watches with enthusiasm.

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P.S. Like Hannah with Food Wars, I’ve taken over Re-Kan reviews from Zane in order to even out our workloads. -Preston

Koufuku Graffiti – 09

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This week, it’s not just New Year’s Eve, but also the anniversary of Ryou and Kirin meeting. That calls for more than just New Year’s Soba. Shiina, who will be off with her family (apparently a dangerous affair) suggests Oden, and Ryou agrees: Oden it is.

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Kirin doesn’t reserve a seat and has to wait for an late train because she was watching TV, while Ryou polishes her home to a blinding sheen, starts cooking, and a single innocent taste ends up being closer to a dozen tastes, to the point we thought Ryou might accidentally eat all the oden before Kirin arrived.

To me, this sequence kind of felt like early Thanksgiving day, when everyone is either in transit or preparing the feast. To avoid further temptation, Ryou leaves the house to wait for Kirin at the station, as she did the first time they met.

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She recalls how lonely it once felt to watch loved ones reunite at the station. Now, she has someone to wait for, and after waiting out in the cold so long with a skirt and no gloves or hat, Kirin, who is still warm from the train, is a welcome presence. You can really feel the love as they hug again on the way to Ryou’s house.

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After positively stuffing themselves on soba, boiled eggs, daikon, konjac, fishcakes, and mochi-stuffed fried tofu (!), they, along with Ryou’s aunt, strike back out into the cold night for their first shrine visit of the year, and cut through that cold with piping cups of amazake, which I’ve never tried before but now MUST, as the way its described and the manner in which it’s enjoyed make it all but irresistible.

There’s also the fact that after a year, Kirin has gotten better at acting like her lovely charming self around adults. It’s a subtle but welcome development, as one day Kirin will be an adult herself, so she’d better get used to interacting with them, beyond her own parents.

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Akira ditches Kirin and her niece to drink with some dudes, so Ryou and Kirin head back home and have some oden leftovers. As Ryou watches a content Kirin resting her head on the table, she tells Kirin how it was her who taught her that food tastes better when sharing it with those you love.

Ryou also wishes, in her head, that even many New Years from now, the two of them will remain friends who share their cooking with one another. Kirin then echoes Ryou’s thoughts out loud, suggesting they will indeed be good friends many years down the road.

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