Val x Love – 02 – A Pat on the Head, a Peck on the Cheek

This week it’s the turn of Odin’s fifth daughter, the Student Council President Saotome Itsuya AKA Schwertleite. A raven-haired maiden beloved at school for her peerless looks and elegant ladylike aura, Itsuya has somewhat less ladylike plans for Takuma after witnessing what she deemed was a pretty chaste exchange between him and her sister Natsuki.

In her head, she’s not that interested in Takuma at all. He’s just a means to an end: if he can awaken her powers and she can save the world, she’ll get a pat on the head from Odin. It’s a simple, childish wish that she keeps entirely to herself, until a frosti shows up ahead of schedule and she suddenly has to level up with Takuma in a hurry.

The thing is, her full-speed-ahead approach doesn’t work on the nervous, petrified Takuma, and once she starts to undress and moves in on him, she suddenly loses her nerve as well, as she can no longer reconcile her mature outward manner with her inner innocence.

Seeing her freeze up in fear causes Takuma to remember what his mom did to calm him down—a good old head pat—so he gives one to Itsuya and it manages to do the trick. The extent of their hanky-panky is that head-pat and a kiss on the cheek just like Natsuki’s, but it’s enough.

With Natsuki just barely holding on against the monster (even getting all bondaged-up and getting her outfit torn), Itsuya swoops in with her chain of white crosses, enveloping the frosti so Natsuki can finish it off with a giant sword. Mission complete, and now two of Odin’s daughters have leveled up. Seven to go.

We also learn that Itsuya’s treasurer in the StuCo is actually Garm, named for Garmr, a helldog/wolf whose howling heralds the coming of Ragnarök. He’s listed as a “watchdog” and sports a level three times higher than Natsuki’s. If he starts something, head pats and cheek pecks may not be enough to beat him.

Dagashi Kashi – 12 (Fin)

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Here it is: the last episode of the Winter for RABUJOI, ending it with, well, not a whimper, but not really a bang either. The show was clearly never interested in brining the candy shop succession plot to any kind of resolution, and so instead stuck to its usual formula of crafting a slice-of-life skit around particular brands or types of candies.

Specifically, Saya is momentarily freaked out by the possibility of having a yuri moment with Hotaru, who asks her about the “flavor of love”, but she’s only talking about a cherry candy with a poem on the package called Sakuranbo no Uta. Meanwhile, Koko and Tou have a very over-dramatic exchange about the proper use of fortune-telling Taberun Desu Hi candies.

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The next skit is devoted to Morinaga Milk Caramels, with Hotaru sitting in the smoking section of Saya and Tou’s family cafe as a kind of acknowledgement that they used to be marketed to adults as a tobacco substitute.

Mind you, before she comes in Koko is worried about “tying down” Hotaru with his indecision about succeeding the store, which Saya incorrectly imagines to be bondage. But Hotaru leaves impressed that Koko fulfilled her expectations, talking about the caramel’s history and mentioning its many flavors, including coconut.

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The final skit is notable for its visual beauty as well as the transformation of the weather from beginning to end. While running after Hotaru to talk to her about his concerns, it starts to rain hard, and the two end up sheletering at a bus stop. There, Hotaru tries to break open a tin of Sakumashiki Drops, but can’t get it open; Koko pries the top with a 10-yen-coin, amazing Hotaru.

Then he tries to put the peppermint flavor drop he gets back in the tin, which Hotaru stops him. He tries it, and it turns out to be much better than he thought, which is again what Hotaru wanted him to realize: one has to try new things to be surprised.

As for tying her down and keeping her from her own business, Hotaru tells him that’s simply not the case: she’s in Koko’s town not just because she wants to recruit his father and get him to succeed the shop, but because she enjoys hanging out there; that’s all. He’s been overthinking things, and like overthinking this show, that gets you nowhere.

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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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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 01

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I went into this show extremely suspicious from what I’d initially gathered about it: a guy treating a girl like a dog just isn’t something that appeals to me as as source of entertainment. After this episode, this is still the case, but at least the show is quite clear about Shinohara Erika’s unfortunate situation being entirely of her making, and it’s up to her to get out of it, not anyone else. It’s your typical pride-vs-appearance tug-of-war, and so far, pride is losing out.

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Sure, getting to school late on the first day is rough, because everyone’s already split up into groups. But building an empty relationship based upon lies to ingratiate oneself with vapid self-involved girls in the back of the classroom just makes things worse. Like Futaba in Ao Haru Ride, she doesn’t really gain anything from pretending to be friends with them, aside from the appearance that she’s not alone when she really is.

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Marin and Aki don’t really give a shit about Erika, regardless of whether she’s banging a model. Even when Erika has Sata Kyouya playing along, the only reaction she gets out of them is relative indifference, followed by mild irritation, since the rest of the school thinks he’s such hot stuff. And the cost of this farce is far too high. At this early stage in her high school life, it would be better to come clean, but she’s not going to do that.

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So as I said, the titular situation, in which she must serve as Kyouya’s dog, is entirely of her making. She got him involved in her web of lies, and he’s perfectly willing to help keep those lies going for her, as long as she’s willing to completely humiliate herself. But a part of him obviously cares about Erika beyond “killing time”, so it seems he’s making things hard on her because he hopes she’ll eventually stop with the lies. She has the power to stop being a dog. Will she get the picture? Ehh…I’m not sure I care.

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