Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 12

Here we are: at the midpoint of what I assume will be a 24/25-episode third season of Food Wars, and Souma has finally taken it on himself to challenge the First Seat of Totsuki’s Elite Ten.

But it wasn’t arrogance that led him to this position! What would you do if Tsukasa told you Nakiri Azami’s ultimate goal is to shut down every restaurant in Japan? Somebody has to take a stand, even if it’s foolhardy.

Despite the stakes, Souma remains calm and does his thing. I appreciated the meta nod to his bag of secret ingredients that have won him challenges in the past. He whips out a new one to use with the venison—sweet chestnuts—then cooks the meat in a seemingly very un-French way—with a charcoal brazier.

When his dish is complete, Tsukasa wonders who will judge it, clearly too focused on his cooking to notice the eavesdroppers in the hall. Souma, however, knew Megumi, Hisako and Erina were there all along, and encourages them to serve as judges.

Souma’s dish tears both Megumi and Hisako’s clothes off, and even Erina is pleasantly surprised; despite the charcoal, Souma used the bitterness of instant coffee to balance his dish, and it is presented in a way that barely passes the French cuisine test.

Then it’s time to taste Tsukasa’s dish—absolutely perfectly-cooked venison with two exquisite sauces—and it isn’t even a matter of clothes coming off or foodgasms…the girls are transported to an Eden-like dimension where they are one with the deer, the trees, and the sunshine.

So yeah…it was kinda silly to imagine Souma was never going to come anywhere close to beating Tsukasa, unless Tsukasa was jobbing. As much as they don’t want Souma working for Central, they have no choice but to pick Tsukasa’s dish as the winner; it’s just…better.

But hey, turns out Souma doesn’t have to work for Central even though he lost! He put up a good fight, and in the process demonstrated to Tsukasa that he’s far too wild and unpredictable to serve as his right hand. So he declares a draw and takes his leave. No harm, no foul!

With that, the episode moves on, with two quick, surprising wins for Megumi’s Cultural RS Nikumi’s Don RS. While sadly there wasn’t time to get into them in any kind of detail, it’s good to see that it isn’t just Souma and Ryo who can beat Central. The morale of the rebellion reaches a new high.

While celebrating Megumi’s win, Polar Star holds a grand tasting session for the God Tongue (much to her chagrin), but Hisako is nevertheless glad Erina’s fitting in with everyone (though someone needs to take that dour brown frock away from Erina and burn it, IMO).

Just when it looks like the episode will end on a happy upbeat note, Azami darkens Polar Star’s doorstep. He invites himself in, ignores demands to leave, and orders Erina to come with him. Erina almost starts to move reflexively, so completely has he conditioner her to obey, but he’s blocked by the other dorm members, Hisako, and even Fumio, who reveals Azami is a Polar Star alumnus.

Isshiki reports the results of his research on Nakamura Azami, and how he rose to Third Seat in his first year, First Seat in his second, and became a top star…until Senzaemon exiled him. Outnumbered, Azami takes his leave, but Souma follows him outside and asks, basically, why he hates Polar Star so much.

But Polar Star is nothing to Azami; neither love nor hate. He’s after bigger things. Besides, Polar Star’s Golden Age is long gone; during that time, Azami looked up to a senpai named Saiba Jouichirou. Azami’s revolution is meant to be the “salvation of the culinary world that ruined Saiba-senpai.”

Erina peaked her head out at just the right time to hear that the chef she always admired and even loved has a son, and that son is Yukihira Souma. That knowledge should make the second half of the season interesting!

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Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 11

Last week I pleaded for the show to do something, anything with Erina before the cour is out, and it seems like my prayers were answered … somewhat. She’s finally out of that horrid brown frock, back in uniform, and more importantly, outside the friendly confines of Polar Star.

Erina confides in Isshiki that she doesn’t expect her relationship with Alice to improve anytime because of the “horrible things” she did to her in the past, even though those things were done when she was under the absolute influence of Azami.

So it comes as a shock to the system when Erina arrives at the Shokugeki hall to find Alice telling Azami off right to his face, demanding he let Erina be her own person. Alice knows it wasn’t Erina’s fault she never got her letters, and never again wants her cousin in the postition where she can’t write back.

But this isn’t going to work if Erina herself doesn’t stand up straight and show her domineering creepfest of her father that she’s her own person. Alice can’t let her main rival be a cowering puppet!

The Alice-Erina interaction is wonderful, but things get even better and more complex when Yukihira and Megumi’s teacher is dismissed and replaced by First Seat Tsukasa Eishi. (Additionally, as Ryo was the only rep to beat Central, Azami quickly purges of the other 32 clubs and societies that lost in the first round.)

Tsukasa, wonderfully voiced by Ishida Akira, is the siren, if you will, who will bring the students to heel through their adoration of him; the class is understandably super-stoked to have the opportunity to learn from the First Seat.

Where things get interesting is when Souma volunteers to be Tsukasa’s teaching assistant, then proceeds to exceed Tsukasa’s expectations with the skills he honed at Shino’s, keeping up with the superfast pace of Tsukasa’s cooking.

The class is wowed, and frankly, I enjoyed Souma and Tsukasa—ostensibly an enemy—putting aside their differences to work some culinary magic in perfect harmony. As Souma says, it was fun!

Meanwhile, Erina has worked up the courage to return to scheduled classes, a big step forward and a relief to her admirers. In a scene that’s touching despite the blatant fanservice, Hisako remarks how she’s noticed a change in Erina.

Erina acknowledges is a result of witnessing all of the people, from those in RS’s to Polar Star, Souma, Ryo and Alice, standing up against her father, something she once thought impossible.

She’s now become worried less about how to please father and more worried about what she Nakiri Erina, wants to do with herself…something far beyond taking a side in Totsuki’s not-quite-dead Civil War.

Speaking of sides, Erina, Hisako, and later Megumi end up eavesdropping on an extended conversation in which Tsukasa offers Souma a job as his right-hand man, making him an official member of Central.

When Souma says he wouldn’t want to present Yukihira Diner’s cooking at Central, Tsukasa calmly reveals that such a thing wouldn’t be necessary, because Yukihira Diner’s cooking isn’t necessary.

All Tsukasa wants is Souma’s “supportive abilities” to help him refine his own cooking, while Souma’s cooking would presumably die off. Tsukasa, literally Number One at Totsuki, has no qualms exposing his boundless selfishness common in many elite chefs.

Souma doesn’t see the point if he can’t serve his own cooking, and says for all they know, Souma’s cooking is better than Tsukasa’s, to which Tsukasa responds with an informal challenge right then and there. If Souma wins, Tsukasa will surrender his First Seat to him. If Souma loses, the rest of his days at Totsuki will be spent as Tsukasa’s sous chef.

Tsukasa begins cooking immediately, and the smell of his venison is so invigorating, Megumi and Hisako—outside the classroom—have foodgasms without a bite! Even Souma hesitates in the presence of such superlative cooking skill—until he hears of Azami and Central’s ultimate plans.

Central aims to literally take over the Japanese culinary world, shutting down all restaurants deemed subpar, including Yukihira Diner. This isn’t just a silly little war within the school, it’s primed to become a nationwide battle between the monolithic empire of orthodoxy and the rebellion of independence an individuality.

Here’s the thing: I just don’t see Souma beating Tsukasa. Does that mean he loses and is forced to switch sides? If this is a conflict the effects of which will extend far beyond the school, will he instead choose exile? And since she’s been listening and watching this whole time, what will Erina decide to do?

LOL. Never change, Erina.

Drifters – 05

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This was a particularly shitty episode of Drifters – and I say that not due to a lack of quality (it remains consistently average most of the time), but due to the sheer amount of excrement used as a weapon against the Orte soldiers in the Elven Rebellion. The three samurai help the Elves train for the battle, then Toyohisa leads the fight, which is waged with arrows and blades covered in crap, and a well full of crap so wounds can’t be washed.

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In this regard, Nobunaga shows just how ruthless he can be, employing the very natural processes of life and death to his advantage, and rightfully expecting the Orte troops to crumble once they see the tactics being used against them.

However, Nobunaga also knows that Yoichi isn’t the biggest fan of such “dirty tricks”, nor that Toyohisa knows how to do anything other than compel others to fight and then fight himself. He proposes the storming of the lord’s castle, but it’s up to Nobunaga to formulate a plan to do so.

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The castle-storming (involving the elves disguised as troops returning…the Orte don’t seem that bright) leads us to a discovery that makes the enemy even more baldly despicable: not only did Orte abduct all of the female elves, but soldiers have been free to have their way with them in a filthy, hellish nightmare setting that make Toyohisa change his mind about accepting anyone’s surrender. If they’re going to act like beasts, he’s going to slaughter them like beasts.

The three amigos made some progress, but we may be starting to see cracks appearing between them even as their quest to conquer everything in sight is just beginning. And while this episode wasn’t marred by any other Drifters or Ends, showing us the dirty, smelly side of war was ultimately more gross than engrossing.

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Drifters – 04

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Drifters has its intense, ostensibly serious moments, but very often they are upturned by a sudden bout of comedy, such as when Easy, who is in the Dorridor to tease Murasaki, finds that he’s currently away from his desk.

Basically, Drifters is in on the joke, and it’s out to show you can have a story about famous historical figures going at each other for the sake of a world not their own without being as rigid as bamboo or dry as Fall leaves. You can have a little fun.

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I like how Oda Nobunaga, the ostensible leader of the Three Surly Samurai, decides to step aside and let Toyohisa be the commander who leads the Elves in their rebellion.

First, he respects Toyohisa’s ability and relative youth. Second, at his age he prefers to be the one who pulls the strings on the side. Third, and perhaps most silly, is that Toyohisa went and sat in the middle, between Nobunaga and Yoichi. And that’s where the leader sits.

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The narrative of a village of (surprisingly old) Elves who have never known freedom or war taking a stand against their masters isn’t all that interesting, but making the Three Samurai their “coaches” in this enterprise, and all their inherent bickering and bawdiness, is pretty entertaining, and helps the medicine go down, so to speak.

These are three guys who can back up their arrogance (and other typically undesirable personality traits); indeed, it makes sense they act and talk the way they do: They’re used to getting their way, and when they don’t, blood that isn’t their own usually spills.

Magician Olmine isn’t yet sure how these Drifters fit into the Octobrists’ larger struggle to save the world, but she knows they’re too human, and too quick to help the weak and downtrodden, to be Easy’s Ends.

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Drifters – 03

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As I mentioned last week, I don’t find the overarching conflict being fought between the Octobrists (with Drifters) and the Black King (with Ends) to be particularly coherent or compelling, but thankfully that doesn’t matter, because the Drifters and Ends themselves have been enough to carry the show along nicely.

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It was a shame we didn’t see any of our cranky Samurai trio until the very end (when they find the hapless Octobrist magician who’s been observing them), but that disappointment was quickly tempered with a bunch of new faces, or I should say old to very old faces.

While their leaders/facilitators (the Octobrists and Black King) aren’t that interesting, most of them are…and also pretty funny at times, keeping things from getting too stilted.

On the End (AKA “Offscouring”) side: A sadistic pyromanic Joan d’Arc who has clearly renounced God; the blizzard-summoning final surviving member of the doomed Romanov family, Anastasia; and Hijikata, the former vice commander of the “Shingensumi” special police squad who can summon the ghosts of his men to hack people down.

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This week’s historical figures on the Drifter side include Scipio Africanus and Hannibal from Roman times, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Kanno Naoshi, a WWII fighter pilot with a wonderful penchant for cursing who just arrived. Kanno decides to side with the Drifters by gunning down the Black King’s dragons when he gets traumatic flashbacks to the bombing of Tokyo.

Both End and Drifter are essentially superheroes, as if passing into this new world has imbued them with superhuman/supernatural powers. As such, much like the Avengers, X-Men, or Jedi, they are front-line heavy hitters, capable of taking on entire armies by themselves. Once could also liken them to reusable tactical nukes.

One intriguing element is that Drifters and Ends are given roles and abilities surpassing even their great statures in normal world history. Some are bigger names than others, and all react to their situation in different ways. Kanno’s decision to take out the dragons was motivated by his experience in the previous world, just as Joan just wants to watch shit burn now, because that’s what happened to her.

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The Drifters at the besieged kingdom are safely evacuated to fight another day. But when Olmine explains to the three Samurai (who were left out of the fighting altogether this week) what the deal is, they react in appropriately amusing ways: Toyohisa is apathetic, Nobunaga is unconvinced, and Yoichi simply isn’t interested. But something tells me once they’re given an enemy to fight, they’ll reconsider their inaction. They’re just not catching the Octobrists at their best.

Drifters continues to be a wonderfully over-the-top action / adventure / comedy that has put a clever twist on the utilization of historical figures in anime. They’re neither too-faithful reproductions of the guys and gals in the books (which are themselves open to interpretation) nor completely unrelated.

It’s a surprisingly welcoming show that doesn’t demand we take its milieu any more seriously than the titular Drifters, but simply enjoy the ride.

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Drifters – 02

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The Gist: Shimazu saves the two elves who saved him, then goes to the elf village to burn the crops and kill all of the invading soliders. He, Nobunaga and Yoichi follow their warlike instincts, unaware they’re being watched by the Octobrists, to be used as soldiers themselves in a battle against an opposing army of “Ends” led by a woman named Easy.

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This episode serves up much of what our three main drifters seem to like most: fighting, bleeding, killing, and dominating others. Taking baby steps, Nobunaga decides to “claim” the elf village, and he and Yoichi are impressed with how quickly and viciously Shimizu pulls it off. There’s no one who presents any kind of challenge to any of these three warriors, but they’ll take what they can get. Blood is blood.

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And blood we get. The violence on display is intense, but nothing that needs pixelation, and in the case of the so-called knight in charge of the village burning, they mostly get what they deserve, with an extra super-samurai flourish to their deaths. Shimazu isn’t just fighting for fun, he’s also fighting for the elves, two of which saved him, and lets the reluctant townsfolk finish the wretched knight off. It’s the violent saying “have at it” to the non-violent, and the latter group acquiescing.

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I continue to enjoy how these three fighters (aged 50, 30, and 19) bounce off each other, and particularly how they seemed to have eased into roles: Nobunaga the cunning commander; Shimazu the front-line brawler, and Yoichi the stealthy ranger. No one is ordering anyone around, mind you, but the guys seem to be getting along and moving with a single purpose.

That may well be exactly what the man in the corridor of doors intended, as it seems he’s locked in some kind of time-transcending battle against a gothy woman who is able to turn the white hall black. Mr. Glasses is fighting with Drifters; the girl with something called “Ends.” Apparently, the survival of the world depends on this battle. I don’t really care about all that (at least not yet) but the three main lads are fun enough to watch banter and bludgeon that I may eventually care.

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Yuri Kuma Arashi – 09

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The cutting-out of the dialogue (not to mention taking a week off!) was certainly irritating in a “Goddamn It I Wanna Know What Happens!” kind of way. But I was confident when Yurikuma  returned, much would be revealed, including the contents of the conversation that led to Kureha shooting Ginko off the roof, to the delight of Yuriika, who’d manipulated both Kureha and Lulu against Ginko.

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What is revealed is not entirely surprising, which is to say it makes sense based on everything that’s come before…which is good! Kureha shoots Ginko, but doesn’t kill her. Ginko ends up in “the center of the sky that divides the worlds of the moon and forest,” in other words, limbo.

Her wounds are tended to by someone that appears to be the late Yurizono Mitsuko, but is really(/also) the manifestation of Desire, the surrender to which has governed the actions of many a girl and bear alike on this show.

With Desire’s help, we explore the particulars of grave crime Ginko committed, which as suspected was not the direct killing or eating of Sumika, but the act of doing nothing to stop it despite having the power to do so.

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Ironically, Ginko had the perfect opportunity to stop Sumika’s demise when she found her hairpin on the ground. The last time Sumika lost that pin, it was Kureha who found it, which led to their friendship and eventually far more. For Ginko to have come so far to reunite with Kureha, only to find she had given her love to another while she was away, created a crack in Ginko’s heart, more than large enough for Desire to slip in. Her desire for Kureha at any cost kept her from warning Sumika, and led to her murder.

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Getting shot was punishment not just for letting Sumika get eaten, but abandoning Lulu, whom Ginko knew loved her but abandoned her anyway, at a crucial moment. That allowed Yuriika to create a wedge between them. Lulu’s revelation that Ginko was an accomplice in Sumika’s death, along with a very guilty Ginko’s admission that she killed Sumika, period, caused Kureha to fire.

As Ginko heals, Desire isn’t quite done with her, nor she with Desire, who disrobes and “becomes one” with her. The red spark in Ginko’s eye suggests Kureha’s bullet (whether it’s a love bullet or not more on that later), has only heightened Ginko’s desire for her. Being deprived of that which one desires can twist a person, as we clearly see with “Bride-in-a-Box” Yuriika.

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As Kureha’s class, now led by Chouko Oki, prepares to vote on whom they believe to be the bear residing among them, flouting social cues and eating them, we find that Kureha’s exclusion seems to have been commuted for the time being.

As Life Sexy creepily spies on two girls going at it in the nurse’s office, he states that the girls’ exclusion of what they deem to be “evils”—be they bears or girls—is a ritual that bands them together and gives them a sense of connection. Desire is not merely an individual vice, nor a collective vice; but also a potentially destructive yet effective means of forming communities and societies.

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Recognized as a victim of the bears they believe she’s already been too friendly with, Kureha’s peers offer Kureha a chance to re-enter the fold, by voting Ginko the bear among them, which will undoubtedly lead to a concerted hunt. But now that she’s had time to cool off, Kureha isn’t so sure Ginko deserves to be “ruined.”

Despite Yuriika’s warning about the wearer of the pendant and Lulu’s snitching, Kureha knows it was Yurizono, not Ginko, who killed Sumika. Far from being ready to deliver a guilty verdict, she’s desperate to learn the whole truth. Up on that roof, flanked by Yuriika and Lulu, there was neither physical nor emotional room for elucidation. Heck, even Ginko didn’t give Kureha the chance to forgive her, preferring to take the bullet as punishment for her sins.

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But Desire isn’t wrong when she says everyone in the world sins at some point in their life to achieve or gain something they desire. Everything is up for grabs; it takes desire to identify what you want and take it, which means others will go without. It’s what Reia did when she gave her love to Kureha instead of Yuriika. It’s what Kureha did when she gave her love to Sumika instead of Ginko. And it’s what Ginko did when she gave her love to Kureha instead of Lulu, and let Yurizono eat Sumika. (Whew…Still with us?)

Interestingly, the Judgemens, perched dramatically upon girders overlooking the city, observe everyone below them with a distinct neutrality and their own desire to see how things shake out. They approved Ginko and Lulu’s plans of action, but before them they also approved Yuriika’s. All, as they say, shall be as Kumaria wills it.

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When Kureha rushes to the lily bed, lured by a call from Yuriika posing as Life Sexy (a nice inclusion of specific modern technology in an otherwise very elemental story), she can’t find Ginko, I got the distinct feeling that anything could happen, not knowing Kumaria’s particular will any more than the Judgemens.

Yuriika comes so very close to putting Kureha “in the box that is her,” but it would seem her own Desire betrayed her. Eating Reia didn’t fill the emptiness inside her, because at that point Reia had already given her love to Kureha.

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So for years, Yuriika kept her true nature secret from everyone and waited as Kureha, the box that contained Reia’s love grew up. But in her hour of victory, Yuriika suddenly becomes incredibly reckess, and falls victim to her own food source: Kureha’s classmates, on Full Bear Alert ever since Kureha shot Ginko.

I have to say, to have so much go right for Yuriika by the end of previous episode, only to snatch it all away due to what amounts to overzealousness, actually ends up making Yuriika a tragic figure; as much an unfortunate victim of Desire as Ginko risks becoming.

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That tragedy is driven home in Yuriika’s final moments, as she apologizes to her beloved Reia, and confesses that she stole and locked away the ending to her book, which contains the rightful future for Kureha and Ginko. As Yuriika passes away, Reia assures her they’ll be friends forever…even if that friendship only goes so far.

Interestingly, while Reia is portrayed as an almost angelic if not Virgin Mary-esque figure throughout Yuriika’s end; the very Kumaria who determines the future of others, one could also interpret Reia as a mere hallucination, as it’s actually Kureha she’s talking to. Thus, Kureha is able to find the rest of her mother’s story, but like last week, Yurikuma only reveals so much in one episode.

The “impossible future” Kureha has uncovered, and the consequences of Ginko absorbing Desire, will have to wait until at least next week.

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Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 12 (Fin)

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Zvezda looked down and out, and we were honestly at a loss in predicting how they were going to dig out of the hole they found themselves in. After all, we left last week with Galatika toast and Kate and Itsuka surrounded by guys with guns, with only big words to bandy. Defeat against Governor Jimon seemed inevitable barring a miracle. They got several.

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Kate may be up against the wall, but aside from passing out for nap time, she never abandons her belief that she will ultimately prevail over the cigar-chomping boob of an adversary. The final battle is an highly amusing push-and-pull: Jimon has his magic shield, magic cigar smoke, and giant retro mecha, but Kate has Dva, Natasha and her tentacle monster, Roboko in human disguise (complete with Total Recall-style transformation), who snatchs the real Galatika from the traitor Yase, and White Robin, who helps out the bad guys and coaxes White Egret to her side.

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Even Pepel/Goro revives, woken up by White Falcon/Kaori, who turns out to have a thing for him. We’ve been listening to Maaya Sakamoto voice Lightning for going on forty hours, so it’s fun to hear her as Kaori, whose voice is more emotional and varied than Light’s. Some units of the JSDF defect to Zvezda, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Kate taking over the driving of Plamya’s motorcycle, flashing her inexpirable license to Asuta when he asks.

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It’s a totally absurd, logically dubious hyper-stylized final confrontation, but full of Zvezda’s trademark charm, wit, and internal commentary about how absurd and logically dubious things are. In other words, a fitting way to end. The crass nihilism of Governor Jimon falls to the optimism, spunk, and gregariousness of Zvezda. Life returns pretty much to normal, but only briefly: a Zvezda-like organization from New York fires the first shot in the next battle, one that actually sounds more fun than the one against the stodgy governor…a teaser for a possible sequel, perhaps. But for now, we’ll bask in the light of Zvezda.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Average Rating: 7.750
MyAnimeList Score: 7.38

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 08

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Zvezda has been very zany, witty, whimsical and fun over its first seven outings, but it’s not what you’d call sophisticated drama. This episode aims to change that, as Zvezda’s secret base is infiltrated deeper than ever before, while the history of Zvezda’s dependable rock General Pepel AKA Shikabane Gorou is explored deeper than before. The show decides not to immediately jump into the confrontation between Asuta and his dad, instead revealing the mysterious commander of White Light, who harbors a personal grudge against Zvezda and its chief, Gorou.

Things start off innocently enough, as Gorou is checking out pastry exhibition, which is hilariously random but also disarming, since maybe the old man’s just there for the sweets. After their big battle last week, Asuta, Kate, and Robo are simply kicking back, and the lead voice actress in Kate’s favorite anime turns out to be White Light’s commander, White Falcon. Things take a turn for the worse when she bombards Kate, Asuta, Robo, and Tasha with puppeteer waves and invites herself to their base, where she deploys a large White Light contingent.

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It’s a very nice dastardly plot because it comes out of nowhere, as does Falcon herself. Even so, she makes a lot of progress because she identified and isolated Zvezda’s most conventionally powerful (i.e., non-magical) member at the moment. The connections come fast and furious: the pastry chef Pierre was thrown out of the gang by Gorou’s wife(?), Tsubaki; White Falcon is really Tsubaki’s sister (possibly making her Gorou’s sister-in-law); Itsuka is Tsubaki’s daughter. All these ties both enrich and explain the underlying conflict between Zvezda and White Light; now it more closely resembles a family feud.

This episode also bucked the trend of focusing on Asuta (the ostensible protagonist) or Kate (the ostensible leader of Zvezda), and focused on the underutilized but incredibly Badass Old Dude; his Old Dude friend who’s really good at baking (and stopping steamrollers); and his Old Dude past, which shaped the Old Dude he is today. After being disguised as a stationary bronze bust for the last two weeks, he gets his time in the spotlight, brings a welcome dose of seriousness and gravitas, and shows Kaori that he won’t allow himself or Zvezda and the ideal of world conquest to be defeated as neatly as she’d planned.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

 

 

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 07

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Going into the treasure hunt, we predicted Renge would be forced to choose a side, as her new friends Kate and Roboko were being targeted by her superior White Egret, disguised as Madame M. The hunt is just a means to and end: exposing and capturing Zvezda members, but Kate and Natasha take over and make it a real thing. This could mean that part of Kate’s power is making her own whims, wishes, and beliefs come true through manipulation of time and space, a talent akin to Suzumiya Haruhi’s.

While Renge is a member of White Light to better herself and fight evil, Mikisugi seems to take pleasure in looking down on people; she teases Kate and arrogantly tries to shoo off Renge by phone, only to be talked down to herself by her superiors. A box of men is released on the school when Kate activates a trans-dimensional portal in the pool, and White Light’s operation is cancelled. And even though Asuta often questions the validity of his fellow Zvezdans’ wild theories about history and mythology (the voice of reason keeping the show honest), even he can’t deny the fantastic stuff that goes on this week.

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Kate drags him into that dimension, then wanders off, and next time he sees her, she’s a towering shadow monster demanding he let her conquer him. He chases her back into the regular world, where he happens to have his Dva mask on when he bumps into Renge. Kate unleashes a massive attack that appears to disperse all parties involved, but the flurry of dark seals stops before it reaches Asuta and Renge. Everything returns to normal abnormalcy, and the item conquered this week by Zvezda could be Asuta’s skepticism.

It could also mark the conquest of the last remnants uneasiness with his new life with Zvezda. The school, his last sanctuary of normalcy, was invaded by Zvezda, White Light, and the Tokyo Special Forces, but he’s not that upset about it. What makes him upset is the final twist we never saw coming: those Special Forces are under the direct command of Tokyo’s governor, who just happens to be Asuta’s estranged father. That means he knows about UDO and Zvezda; it could also mean he knows where his son is and what his son is up to. That is, if people in this show weren’t so easily fooled by masks.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Gorou can do Morse Code by foot…but not well.
  • Asuta really doesn’t want to do the “Treasure Dance”, but Renge, Natasha and Roboko goad him into it with incessant chanting. Renge smiling when she knew she’d won was a nice little detail.
  • Kate doesn’t remember anything about the evening after she and Asuta jumped into the pool, which means Asuta was the only person who remembers that bizarre stone version of the school sitting in the desert.

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 06

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Working his ass off as indispensable all-round doer of cooking, laundry, cleaning, and TP acquisition, school is Jimon’s last refuge. So naturally in the cold open he has that refuge snatched away by the surprise transfer of Kate and Roboko to his class. They and the rest ofo Zvezda aren’t there for Jimon, but for the “Udo Bride”, an ancient treasure Kate learns about by a dubious flyer published by the “Treasure Club.”

With Renge and Jimon’s secret identities secure, the sudden arrival of his colorful “cousins” doesn’t faze her; on the contrary, she swoons when she learns Jimon proposed to the school idol Shirasagi Miki when he was little (though he was instantly shot down). It’s kinda funny and ridiculous that the school accepts a grade-schooler and a robot to middle school, while Iitsuka and a fully-clothed Natasha look more at home. Meanwhile Gorou is ingeniously disguised as a bronze bust in the courtyard.

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That first scene with Miki seemed random, but sets the stage for the Treasure Club mystery: it’s all another elaborate ploy by Shirasagi, AKA White Egret, AKA Madame M (lotta aliases pilin’ up!) to trap Zvezda, whose members she’s identified by the UDO levels they gave off while at the club meeting (the inexplicably interactive film reel was a nice touch). As Egret she ordered Renge to stay home, but the fact Renge couldn’t stay away (and indeed is so enthusiastic she shows up in full adventurer’s kit) could be a potential wrench in her gears.

This episode was full of interesting interactions between people who’d normally be enemies warming up to each other at school. In that regard, where Zvezda and Renge are concerned, it’s every bit a sanctuary and “neutral space” to them as it had been for Jimon. But Shirasagi is poised to ruin all that by unmasking the Zvezdians (her flyers will serve double duty as Zvezda power-negating talismans, another clever touch). Renge could learn Jimon and her new friends are all members, meaning she’ll have to pick a side.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • We noticed Roboko was eating her udo lightly grilled; nice continuity!
  • Not sure where Jimon dredged up tha “Treasure Dance” thing, but it sure was weird…and the positive, reverent reaction to it was even weirder!
  • The episode never forgets for a moment that Kate is at the end of the day a little kid, who doesn’t conserve her energy and ends up falling asleep all the time
  • To that end, we like how she initially tried to use a more polite, formal affectation while at school, but the more tired she got, the more she just forgot to use it, confusing Renge.
  • Roboko’s Schoolgirl mode made her sound a lot more like Morita Moe. We also liked how she was prepared to punish Jimon should his insulting of Kate continue.

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 05

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Who would’ve thought both Jimon Asuta and Komadori Renge are chronic sufferers of both Voice-Blindness and Hair-Blindness? After all, neither of them had realized they were right on top of one another in a batle between Zvezda and White Light, despite the fact both have fairly distinctive hair and neither disguises their alter-ego’s voice. We know, anime have a certain license when it comes to disguises, so we’ll forgive the fact it takes Asuta seeing a much less noticeable detail than Renge’s purple twin-tails—her homemade strap—to figure out she’s White Robin.

What’s a little harder to forgive is that after teetering so close to the two finding out what their “secret jobs” are, the show pulls up at the last minute. Letting it happen would have been brassy, and there was potential in the scenario of Renge and Asuta knowing each others’ secret identities but maintaining their friendship, with the challenge of keeping it secret from their respective organizations. It would shake up his non-Zvezda life for the first time since, well, running away from home, which happened offscreen anyway.

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About that: knowing full well that White Robin is Renge, Asuta saves her from Kate and Natasha’s terrifying tentacle boss, essentially committing an act of treason against Zvezda not just to save Renge’s life, but to save her from being unmasked and publicly humiliated. That part actually wasn’t bad, because it reiterates the fact Asuta still finds all this Zvezda business a bit silly. He knows Renge is trying her best to be a better person, like him. He won’t stand by and let others burn that down for no reason.

But then Renge had to be wearing a mask under her mask, making it so Asuta now thinks White Robin is a stranger. It’s the easy way out. But no one says she won’t unmask him one day, and they’ll be back at that intriguing crossroads we got a taste of this week. If nothing else, we did get to watch a lot of Asuta/Renge interactions, something we’re a fan of since they have such a natural, relaxed rapport. Her fair, earnest response to him saying he wanted to conquer the world was particularly sweet.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We liked Asuta’s protests to all the histrionic exposition regarding White Light. There’s only so much BS he can take in one sitting.
  • That being said, we think Zvezda’s definitely rubbing of on him, as he snaps covert photos of Renge all day, sneaks into the girls locker room and rifles through her things, all rash actions he wouldn’t have undertaken prior to becoming “Dva.”
  • We enjoyed all the coded dialogue between Renge and Asuta, accurately expressing their moods while keeping the details secret.
  • As an example that the conquests vary greatly in scale from week to week: this week Kate merely conquers the low bar back flip…barely.

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 04

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Like every far-flung, wacky Zvezda adventure Jimon Asuta has ended up on, this latest one has a very modest, innocent start: he cooks Roboko’s typically raw udo. That becomes a much bigger deal than he thought because A.), Roboko only eats raw udo; B.), raw udo is Roboko’s sole energy source, and C.), that was the last of the udo in the kitchen. When he heads down to the basement (50m underground) he finds a huge growth of udo (looking very similar to the core of Laputa, by the way) and learns that the entire Zvezda HQ runs on the stuff. But something’s no right: the udo starts to die, and all the lights go out. Adventure time!

It’s the ease and deftness with which Zvezda snowballs little incidents that makes it such a fun show to watch; like Space Dandy, it keeps you on your toes, not knowing quite what’s going to be on the menu from week to week. This also makes sense, as Zvezda is commanded by a little girl who can be fickle, impulsive, and just downright random, and also needs afternoon naps. This week the mission to find the original udo is undertaken by Asuta, Kate, and Natasha, about whom we learn a lot more. Last week we got Gorou and Yasu’s story, but Natasha’s story gets a lot more texture and depth, as the trio descends further into the “Super Ancient Udogawa Civilization.”

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What also gets a lot of texture and depth is the vast, crazy underground setting itself; from Natasha’s little 8-bit locator device to the montage of RPG-like battles and events to the alien look of the place, it’s definitely a pleasing change of scenery full of neat little details. There’s a great sense of occasion and grandeur to the journey, which for Natasha becomes a journey to her past, which she must confront in order to complete the mission. While her childhood story starts out relatively normal—she reclusive child who spent her waking hours building robots—it takes a bizarrely intriguing (and very apropos for Natasha) twist.

The foray into the past starts with a dream that Natasha has while sleepwalking into Asuta’s bed. Natasha isn’t quite clear about it, but she either ran away from home, like Asuta, when her parents insisted she stop inventing, or they weren’t her parents at all and took her to the “land of the faeries”—Ancient Udogawa. In any case, she was alone and lost—and then she wasn’t—when she met Roboko and then Kate, to whom she swore fealty. It’s fitting then that Roboko saves her again from the dark, shadowy echoes of her past, giving Kate and Asuta time to pollinate the Udo. Any charges of a deus ex machina are negated by this simple fact: Roboko could eat cooked Udo all along; she just hadn’t gathered the courage to try it.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)