Isekai Shokudou – 02

When treasure hunter Sarah finds a door in a cave, she finds the “final treasure of the ultimate treasure hunter”, William Gold: the door to Nekoya. The late Will turns out to have been a regular at the restaurant.

While initially weary that the food in this otherworldly place won’t be up to snuff, one bite into the succulent daily special of fried minced-meat cutlets sends Sarah straight to Flavortown.

I enjoyed details like Sarah’s amazement even with the lemon water, bread, and soup, and the exquisite detail with which she described her wonderful dining experience. Definitely shades of Food Wars, without the wars! It’s also good to see Aletta doing well in her new role as waitress.

As a matter of habit he started with William, the Chef prepares take-out cutlet sandwiches for Sarah to take with her. Thus “Minced-Meat Cutlet II” is born in the eyes of the other regulars; William Gold—likely Sarah’s father or grandfather—was MMC I.

In part two, one of the grizzled regulars, the master swordsman Tatsugorou, visits a knight-captain in his dramatically-perched mountain fortress, bearing a sword the knight thought he lost three years ago on a desperate mission to save the Duchy.

In his haste to complete his mission, the knight, one Heinrich Seelemann, neglected to pack any food. When his horse collapsed, he had to continue on foot, until he simply couldn’t go on. Just then, he spotted a cabin with the now all-too-familiar door to Nekoya.

Like Sarah, Seelemann was initially weary of the sudden new, strange surroundings, but the Chef has a way of winning people to his side with his incomparable down-home cuisine. In Heinrich’s case, it’s the friend shrimp that remind him of his hometown delicacy.

He was so hungry he forgot he had no money, so left his sword with the Chef (who refused it, but Heinrich insisted). When he returned to the cabin later, the door was gone, but he was missing one key piece of the puzzle: the door only appears once every seven days.

Tatsugorou leads him back to the restaurant, where we see Sarah already enjoying Minced-meat cutlet, and Heinrich knows exactly what he wants: the simple-yet-sumptuous meal that ultimately fueled the success of his mission, the saving of the Duchy; after which he was rewarded with the mountain fortress. Pretty spiffy!

After two episodes, we now have a fairly stable pattern of two separate people from another world finding the door to the restaurant and having life-changing meals. Whether the show will choose to alter that pattern or not, I already think I prefer this to Youkai Apartment.

Isekai Shokudou – 01 (First Impressions)

This anime’s title—Restaurant to Another World—is also its premise. An ordinary bottom-floor western-style restaurant closes at midnight on Saturdays to welcome clientele from other worlds who come in through the magical front door.

The food is clearly good, as we glean from a group of burly warriors, some of them demi-humans, all of whom believe the dish they’re eating is the one that goes best with rice.

But when things get too rowdy and the chef asks for calm, they obey. They’ve all got a good thing going with this place; the last thing they want is for the chef to stop cooking for them.

One night, Nekoya appears to be closed but for a single important client: a red dragon who transforms into a voluptuous woman before arriving for her usual: a simple yet sumptuous beef stew.

After a bowl in human form, she returns to her gold-filled nest in her world with some take-out: a tall pot full of stew she gingerly laps up; simply unable to wait until next week to experience the sublime taste.

The third vignette, if you will, involves Aletta, a demon with prominent goat’s horns recently fired from her job working at an inn in her world, who stumbled upon the door and, believing herself to be dreaming, ate an entire pot of corn potage and fell asleep on the kitchen floor.

The chef is a decent sort of chap, so after hearing her story and ensuring Aletta’s belly is full with a delicious staff breakfast, he offers her a job as a waitress and busser at Nekoya.

Aletta gratefully accepts before discovering the wonders of a modern shower, cleaning up, and helping him. Later, the red dragon takes notice and appears to cast a protective spell on Aletta when she returns to her world, as the dragon is very protective of her “treasure.”

Cons include mediocre production values, including a few instances of distorted perspective, character designs are merely serviceable, and the story’s a little all over the place.

Pros include a neat general concept, a pleasant, genial atmosphere, and decent-looking food, while magic door provides the opportunity for many more colorful customers from far-flung lands. Execution is a bit meh though, so it’s a solid “maybe.”

Flying Witch – 11

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Flying Witch goes big with the magic this week, and Makoto, Akane, and Chinatsu have a…ahem…whale of a time. An ethereal postman delivers the newspaper for the witching world, and news comes that a whale will be flying over Aomori soon. The girls fly out on their brooms early in the morning to try to spot it. And flying witches on Flying Witch are always welcome!

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The massive stone whale is also a Laputa-esque flying island covered in gardens and fish pools, and extensive ruins, and when the girls gain access to the “flight deck” they find Shiina Anzu, budding archaeologist, already there exploring.

There’s a palpable sense of awe and grandeur to the big flying whale, and the segment owes much to films like Castle in the Sky, but with FW’s own easygoing atmosphere. Yes, this is a big deal, and everyone’s stoked about being on this whale, but there’s no possibility of harm or of anything sinister happening.

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Despite being abandoned long ago, the whale is a bringer of joy and wonder to everyone’s hearts. But the girls can’t just stay up there forever; for one thing, stomachs are starting to growl. So they say goodbye to their new giant flying friend and head to Casa Kuramoto for the newest installment of Kei’s Cooking Corner. Anzu joins Makoto, Akane and Chinatsu, and gets to see her anthropology mentor, the wise and well-traveled Kenny.

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From flying on brooms to exploring floating whale ruins to conversing with cats, this episode gave me my magical fix, so the addition of some down-home hotcake-making and eating was the icing on the cake, as was the arrival of Anzu’s owl familiar with a lengthy bill for Akane from Anzu’s Mom’s cafe. Better scrounge together some cash to pay that, big sis!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try Kei’s method of layering batter to make thicker hotcakes. It’s such a simple technique I feel pretty dumb for never thinking to augment my frisbee-thin pancakes…

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 08

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After spending much of the previous episode apart, this episode almost revels in pairing up Moe with Saikawa once more. With dawn approaching and the police soon on their way, Moe believes she can get her uncle in the police department to keep Shiki’s murder a secret for the length of time the lab needs; that way no one has to lie. Moe goes to the roof to try to determine how Shindo’s killer could have gotten on or off the roof from the outside, but more than anything she’s just happy to be with Saikawa.

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As for that sunset, it’s a really lovely scene during which the sky gradually lightens and the sun comes up over the trees as Moe and Saikawa lean on the rail, enjoying each other’s company. Moe talks about how she hurt her when she lashed out in her mad grief all those years ago, but Saikawa never held it against her; “glasses can be fixed.” It was more important to him that Moe knew she wasn’t alone, even though her parents were gone.

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The pleasant domestic theme continues when Moe takes a shower and Saikawa makes a hearty breakfast of bacon & eggs, and then Saikawa lets Moe doze off for a few hours, then for the two to keep each other company during a slightly scary blackout as the lab’s computer is rebooted.

Saikawa notes how differently he and Moe think: he sees the path and carefully walks along it to find the answer, while Moe grasps at random facts and tries to make connections. Saikawa implies Moe has much to learn, but can’t deny that she presents ideas that he wouldn’t have come up with. They make a good team.

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With Moe, who feels much lighter since  by his side in the dark as he puffs away at a cigarette, Saikawa comes upon what he believes to be a truth that may turn everything on its head: the Magata Shiki Moe spoke to via teleconference wasn’t really Magata Shiki. The episode also brings up the possibility of passing Miki off as Shiki, despite being taller and more filled out…but what if Miki IS Shiki?

What if that whole English conversation Saikawa had was with Shiki? Could the whole “sister” thing be one long con? Or, even more distrubing, did Shiki cut off Miki’s longer limbs to pass her corpse off as her own, thus faking her death? Shiki considers bodies mere containers, so she’s definitely capable of it.

All this time I’ve been operating under the assumption Shiki was definitely dead, even if a part of her still existed in, say, the computer system. But now even that fact is in dispute. If Miki is Shiki, that’s a whole new ballgame.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 03

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This week’s opening scene was wonderful, and perfectly demonstrates how much of a family Guren’s squad has become. Summoning the boys to a breakfast, Shinoa and Mitsu prove a bad combination in the kitchen, leaving Shiho to reveal his culinary talent. Everyone tucks into a warm, cozy meal before getting down to business: Shinoa briefing Yu on both the incident in which he went berserk and almost killed her, and whether the five of them continue to trust and follow Guren, even if the possibility exists he’s only using them to further his own goals.

I went to see The Martian last night, and part of what I liked about it so much (and also why it’s so critically lauded) was how it never took shortcuts, but let us in on the intimate and detailed process of solving all of the myriad problems that befell the stranded astronaut. Because the film “showed its work” to us, it made me us that much more invested in the eventual payoffs. These last three episodes, that’s exactly what Owari no Seraph has been doing, and it’s similarly effective.

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As the five kids ponder the paths they should take, their superiors are already traveling on theirs. Kureto meets with Guren under the guise of having him kill three vampires who failed to turn into demons. Guren refuses (Kureto has them sniped) and asks his boss to quit wasting his time. As tough a front as he presents, Guren is far more of a softy than Kureto, something Kureto uses as proof he can trust him.

He’ll keep Guren alive as long as he’s useful, and having three Black Demon users in his squad, however he came upon them, will be useful in his future plans. Those plans, which finally make mention of this season’s titular battle in Nagoya, are grand, involving a complete eradication of vampires in Japan before advancing abroad, wiping out any other human organizations, and ruling the world.

Guren will serve as Kureto’s tool and follow orders as long as it serves him, I imagine, exploiting Kureto’s confidence he’s incapable of betraying his comrades. But as we see, Guren’s sword, Shinoa’s demonized sister Mahiru, also wants a say in who Guren follows.

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While Yu is contemplating alone on the roof, Shinoa joins him, breaking the ice as usual by jokingly wondering what naked girl he’s checking out from his vantage point. Her wry levity continues, but Yu is more somber, particularly about whether he really tried to kill her, and whether it was Guren’s intent that he go berserk.

After offering his hand to Shinoa, which she gingerly takes, they join the other three back in the apartment where Yu announces his decision: Guren said they’re a family, and he’ll help him with Mika, so he’s going to trust him and stick with family for now, realizing he’s being selfish. Shiho is the first to go along, followed closely by everyone else. So mutiny averted…for now.

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Back in Vampland, Mika, unwilling to drink form humans, is dependent on Krul’s blood, which is the way she likes it. But he wants answers to wash that blood down, answers he eventually gets out of her. Krul is sending her main force to Tokyo to wipe out the Demon Army once and for all, but she has a different mission for Mika: go to the side of Yu, the Seraph of the End, and protect him from both humans and vampires. At this point Mika doesn’t care if he or Yu or both of them are being used by others, as long as Yu is safe.

Shinoa pays a visit to Guren, reporting Yu and Shiho’s successful possession, and also opens up with regards to Yu: she’s not sure if what’s happened is that she’s fallen for him, but she knows he needs her and has asked her to stay with him, so she doesn’t intend to let him down. For now, Yu, Mika and Shinoa are putting the preservation of family above all other considerations, including being exposed to manipulation, betrayal, and destruction.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 17

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Zane reviews this week’s Food Wars.

I should have known Souma’s homecoming wouldn’t consist of kicking back and relaxing…or rather kicking back and relaxing the way normal people do on vacation. Though he only intends to “air out” the diner, when classmates and townsfolk see the shop open, they swarm to him, and he’s more than happy to feed them.

Then a nexus of elements conspire to put him in the middle of a shopping district-saving karaage challenge, and he can’t help but put every effort into it. The kid simply doesn’t turn off. Nor does the show’s hunger for heightened tension through competition, no matter what the challenge is.

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His return home also marks the return of his adorable classmate Kurase Mayumi, on the surface one of the show’s plainest and least charismatic characters. Yet in a show replete with colorful, eccentric personalities, Mayu actually stands out due to her relative normal-ness.

She couldn’t be more different than the glamorous, scantily-clad buxom, low-voiced meat-expert Nikumi, who enthusiastically accepts Souma’s call to pay him a visit without question or complaint (and whose T&A have their own proprietary sound effects). I take that back: they’re similar in one very important way: they both like Souma.

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More to the point, they both feel threatened by one another. Nikumi fears the chipmunk-like Mayu is the type of gal Souma goes for; Mayu fears Nikumi is actually Souma’s girlfriend, and is so blown away by her sexiness she forgets they’re in the same grade. Truth be told, I’m a Souma x Megumi shipper and thus not really in this particular fight, but the two make for a fun duo flanking a predictably oblivious Souma.

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The three stop by the wildly popular Mozuya specialty karaage shop that is cleaning up from its primo location in the newly renovated train station shopping arcade. The lady in charge is the volatile, venomously competitive (and hilarious!) Nakamozu Kinu, who isn’t content to just clean up, but also dance on the corpses of the shopping district losers she’s stealing business from. When she learns Souma & Co. are there to scout, she isn’t the slightest bit intimidated, because Mozuya is an award-winning, financially burgeoning karaage giant.

Mozuya reminds me of Chik-Fil-A, a local fast food chain in America that also specializes in chicken. Every store is a well-oiled machine, whether it’s in a mall or a standalone. Every time I go, I’m met with uncommon (to American fast food at least) courtesy and hospitality from an obviously highly-trained and motivated staff, regardless of how busy it is…and it’s always busy.  I’ve made complicated orders for large groups during the lunch rush, and always get the order within a minute or so of placing it. It’s uncanny.

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Chik-Fil-As are, in fact, run so well, it’s almost suspicious, like there’s something sinister at work. And that’s the same vibe I got from Mozuya. Nakamozu certainly has her merciless, sinister side, which thoroughly unsettles foodnorm Mayumi well after they depart. Souma and Nikumi, on the other hand, are used to that kind of tension, and have been through culinary hell together; this is just another challenge to overcome.

But it’s not going to be easy. Mozuya has been perfecting its recipe for years, and though Mayu is a game taste tester, Souma isn’t able to create any test batches of karaage remotely good enough to topple the giant. The ultra-rich and thus out of touch with the real world Nikumi suggests fighting fire with a tactical nuke, AKA her family’s vaunted A5 beef, but her idea of “affordable” is over three times Souma’s price ceiling.

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Even if profits aren’t as important as victory to Nikumi, Souma isn’t just trying to win; he’s trying to revitalize the shopping district. So it’s interesting that it’s Mayumi, a native of the town like Souma, gives him the spark he needs to move forward by suggesting playing to the strengths of the district rather than playing on Mozuya’s turf.

As he works out what he’s going to do, Nakamozu has a call with her restaurant advisor, who happens to be one of the Elite Ten along with Isshiki and Erina. That means if Souma can somehow defeat Mozuya, that will speak volumes to his ability to take on said Elite Ten. Not a bad feat to pull off while on vacation!

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Shokugeki no Souma – 16

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When she doddered down the steps in search of some nosh, the sleep-deprived Megumi could not have imagined she’d end up as one of three judges, alongside Fumio and Isshiki, who would preside over a face-off between former Elite Ten Second Seat Junichirou and Souma. But the father wants to take the pulse of his son’s culinary growth, or lack thereof, and a tiebreaker was needed, and Megumi was around, so she’s a judge.

Knowing how fierce and formidable Junichirou is and how amazing his dinner was last night, Megumi doesn’t think Souma has the slightest chance of winning. And he doesn’t win, and, there’s never any indication that he would. Furthermore, she and the others learn that Souma’s record against his dad (whom he’s faced off against since grade school) is a truly abysmal 0 wins against 489 losses.

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Souma doesn’t worry about winning or losing in the face-off, though. He focuses on making the best dish he can with the requirements given: something that gives one energy for the morning without being too rich or heavy. His apple risotto, infused with apple flavor from juice with fresh raw apples warmed through, is a refreshingly creative dish, no doubt. It puts Snow White Megumi in the valiant arms of Prince Apple, and spurs another welcome appearance from Sexy Fumio, who dances with Isshiki in the lovely flavors.

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Then Junichirou presents his dish, a seemingly disappointing ramen, that turns out to be not nearly as rich and heavy as it looked. On the contrary, the judges can’t stop putting the ramen away, yet are never overwhelmed by the gorging, because all the immensely complex umami flavors are achieved without any meat or fish products, but various iterations of soy, tempeh, mushrooms, kelp, and sake. The dish is so rejuvenating, Isshiki and Megumi transform into little kids, and Fumio reverted to an earlier stage of human evolution!

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In the end, the vote is unanimous, and it isn’t close; Souma is handed loss #490 (which he and his dad both record in little notebooks containing all their face-offs over the years). Souma learns a lesson: he was conservative, minimizing (the chances of not meeting the needs of the judges), while his dad took more risks and made use of his encyclopedic knowledge of world cuisine to surprise and maximize their satisfaction.

Even so, Souma’s dish showed Junichirou that his son had grown to his satisfaction, and he tells him until he loses to him again, he’d better not lose to anyone else. I think that’s fine with Souma: the only chef he’s okay losing to is his dad. Megumi, Isshiki, and Fumio now understand Souma’s toughness and resilience: all those hundreds of losses were also hundreds of lessons doled out by his dad.

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Most of this episode was the face-off, and I appreciated the show going back to a simple old face-off between two cooks after the chaos of the training camp (that still keeps poor Megumi up at night). The dishes were absolutely mouth-watering, and while I probably couldn’t do the ramen justice, I’m going to try out the apple risotto as soon as I have the ingredients amassed.

What else happened? Well, Erina thought she saw Junichirou on the side of the road (probably because she did), but when she gets out of her beautiful BMW E38, he’s not there. It’s a shame she didn’t learn the truth about Souma, but I guess that’s for another time, if ever.

Also, with Junichirou asking Souma to “air out the diner”, and a cut to his hometown where his cute childhood friend (whom he subjected to his peanut butter squid) gazes longingly at said closed diner, it looks like Souma will finally be heading home next week. Looking forward to it.

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