Girl Friend BETA – 05

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This week’s delicious episode of Girl Friend BETA centers on an entirely new set of students, namely the school’s student council, led by President Amatsu Kanata and Vice President Shinomiya Risa (Hikasa Yoko). The schools in a rather unusual pickle: with the entire cafeteria staff stuck on Easter Island, the cafeteria finds itself stocked with food, but no one to cook, order, or serve. President Amatsu decides the StuCo will take up the challenge and cook for the school in the staff’s stead.

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Amatsu is notorious among the council members below her for being terrible at absolutely everything except making tea, which she’s almost preternaturally good at. She’s also good at suggesting ideas that require an immense amount of work, the bulk of which ends up being done by Shinomiya and the other members, because Amatsu can’t do anything properly and ends up creating more work than had she not lifted a finger at all. But again, when the first morning of training is over, she makes everyone a fantastic cuppa.

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Do not watch this episode on an empty stomach! Between the curry and rice, meat and potatoes, tonkatsu, freshly-made yakisoba bread, udon, and “random” designer bentos, there’s a lot to make one’s mouth water. I for one love cooking, and the episode does a good job showing just how Herculean a task running the cafeteria can be…especially when word gets out the council is kicking ass in there and the number of customers increases.

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Throughout it all, Risa is essentially a very hands-on Executive Chef, handling several orders at a time and keeping the rest of the kitchen running smoothly while making sure Amatsu doesn’t serve anyone raw chicken. At one point when the orders pile up, Risa starts to think she’s in over her head and screams out for help. Amatsu is there in the break room with the perfect cup of Chamomile with honey to calm her nerves.

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And that’s what makes Amatsu the X-factor in the whole operation: Sure, she’s terrible at cooking, recommends dishes that aren’t on the menu, and is generally a nuisance, but the phenomenal tea actually makes a big difference for the makeshift staff throughout the episode; she almost serves as their White Mage. But it’s not just about the tea: Amatsu knows how to rally her troops, set lofty goals, bring out the best in everyone, including Risa, and never ever lose heart. That’s what makes Amatsu a good leader. It’s not really a mystery why she’s the president.

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Majimoji Rurumo – 03

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In Shibaki Kouta’s quest to reach ever higher stages of manhood, it’s been two rungs up the ladder and one rung down. A girl lives with him, but there’s nothing he can do about it because his mom thinks she’s his sister, and stands ready to gut him at the first sign of perversion.

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This week the trend continues when a girl finally joins the Occult Research Club, but things don’t turn out the way Kouta hoped. The girl in question, Kujirai Tanako, may be the best-looking first-year, but she’s a couple eps short of a cour, in anime reviewer’s parlance.

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In fact, this episode also came up a bit short in the compelling department, owing to the preponderance of side characters like Tanako—a tiresome fraud of a magician—and Kouta’s club pals, none of whom make much of an impression. I was also way ahead of Kouta in realizing Tanako was interested in the glasses guy, not him—though ironically the glasses guy seems more into Rurumo.

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The progressing Rurumo-Kouta dynamic this episode from mediocrity. It wasn’t so much Rurumo’s klutz clinic in her cafeteria job, tripping on nothing and breaking everything, but the fact that Kouta continues to grow as a human being now that there’s someone in his life he wants to support.

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Heck, Kouta was focused on a completely different girl most of this episode, but after that bubble inevitably burst, he confronted Rurumo about why she’s trying so hard. Her answer’s simple enough: she has to, as she’s always had to. She’s worried Kouta’s unswerving kindness will make her complacent, and so insists on “restricting herself.”

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Yamagishi Saki from One Week Friends was fully aware of her limitations and of the need for someone to lean and depend on. Presently Rurumo seems to be a person of similar limitations, only she’s fearful of depending on someone else. I’m not saying Kouta is the Ideal Man, but he’s the first person to be this kind to her—and she’s the first person he’s been this kind to.

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Both are dealing with a completely new kind of interaction; it’s natural to be weary or uncertain. But it’s already apparent that, despite his occasional flights of puerility, Kouta’s slowly becoming a better person with Rurumo in his life. No reason that door can’t swing both ways, as long as Rurumo doesn’t bar it.

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