TenSura – 37 – Fellowship of the Slime

Rimuru and the gang are back, and like most TenSura premieres, it’s far more a quiet easing into the hot spring than a cannonball into lava. That said, there’s nothing quiet about this opener, thanks to Mr. Veldora Tempest, now possessed of his freedom and a shredded human form. Despite his new look, Veldora feels like an old friend and treats Rimuru like a brother and “BFF”. He’s way to brash and jovial, but I just can’t hate him.

His return to the Forest of Jura—now a powerful federation with a bustling capital thanks to his BFF—is awkward at first, but once Rimuru’s compatriots realize he’s the Lord Veldora, they welcome him with their usual exuberance, and a giant party ensues. During this time, we are reminded how gross Shion’s food is, but one benefit of being resurrected is that she now has the ability to make her food taste great no matter how she cooks it, which is…random!

If you look above, you’ll see that no fewer than two dozen characters sitting at a single conference table during another one of TenSura’s interminable infodumpy council scenes. That’s a lot of characters, and for the vast majority of shows I’d say it was way too many, but they were all introduced gradually enough, and are individually distinctive enough, that even if only a handful get lines, they all feel like old friends, just like Veldora.

The episode serves as a platform for Rimuru to make clear he intends to come out as a Demon Lord to the whole world. His plans include cleaning up Falmuth (whose army he annihilated), keeping the Holy Church “in check” (I imagine he can hold his own against Sakaguchi Hinata by now), rescue Lord Carrion, and eventually deal with Lord Clayman himself.

Among his usual allies, he also has Blumund, Dwargon, and a newcomer in the Elves of the Sorcerous Dynasty of Thalion. That last and most floridly named nation is led by Elalude, who just happens to be Eren’s dad! Small world. In any case, the elves seem to be top magic users and should prove to be a valuable ally. Rimuru and his grand alliance have a lot to do, but this week they just talk about it. Maybe next week they’ll start doing it!

To Your Eternity – 10 – The Grand Gugupest Hotel

When the Enemy is about to attack Gugu, Fushi springs into action and shields his brother from the twisting branches by creating a number of spears to parry them. I guess he has learned a few things since his last battle! Gugu wants fight beside him, but is very lucky to survive when the Enemy throws him across the forest.

It may just be the still Booze Man installed in his stomach that saves him, as he proceeds to barf out all of the liquor stored there. When his torch ignites the liquor-vomit, Gugu gets an idea for how he can help Fushi, and races home. On the way, he turns completely red, drunk off the liquor that escaped the still, while Rean is about to be carried off by her helicopter parents.

Drunk Gugu is naturally a less inhibited Gugu, so he doesn’t mince words about loving Rean more than anyone, no matter to whom she’s betrothed. In any case, he’s not there to solve her family drama, but to get a refill of Booze Man’s best booze.

Pioran, the only other person to have witnessed the terrifying power of Fushi’s Enemy, insists that Booze Man do as Gugu says. The old man fills Gugu up with his strongest stuff and sends him on his way, while Pioran stops Rean’s parents from taking her and leaving…because it’s not safe out there.

Gugu, having sobered up, arrives to find the Enemy has absorbed Fushi’s Giant Bear form, and there is no sign of Fushi. But it’s soon apparent that the Enemy, essentially being made of wood, is vulnerable to fire, and Gugu has a fresh bellyful of fuel to play with.

Using his boozy fire breah, Gugu burns the Enemy to the ground, freeing Fushi, who is only flowing light and energy before transforming into a rock, his first form. When Gugu picks him up, he transforms into a wolf dog, and the two tussle mirthfully…though Fushi keeps his promise to bite Gugu if he came back!

The next morning Gugu and Fushi return to the Booze Man’s house where everyone is very confused about what happened (though Pioran probably has a pretty good idea). Gugu celebrates his return by cooking up a feast so delicious, Rean’s parents deem him better than their professional chef.

Fushi, back in the same clothes and with the same rope as the boy when he died since he “reset”, greets his maker, whom no one else can see or hear, outside. The creator tells him in order to become stronger, he cannot be sedentary, but like Rean with her parents, Fushi protests. He wants to stay. The creator tells him that’s also an option.

Back inside, Rean prepares to leave with her folks, and Gugu dispenses some precocious wisdom: The people who keep us alive aren’t necessarily good people, but we aren’t so weak that we can’t endure it. Granted, he’s had to endure a lot more than Rean, but it’s all relative!

Fast forward…four years. Gugu is no longer a pot-bellied boy, but a swole young man, having never stopped his fitness regimen. He continues to assist the Booze Man and feed him and Pioran (who still starts eating before everyone comes to the table). Rean still “runs away” from home on the regular, to see Gugu and Fushi.

And Fushi, having watched Gugu and Rean grow, has himself grown “older”; his hair growing longer and even gaining a slight stubble on his face. He also speaks a lot more naturally, which isn’t surprising considering his teachers and how long he’s been with them. The tenth episode of a planned twenty ends on Fushi’s new family happily enjoying a meal together. If only that happiness could last…

The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent – 02 – Exhausted…In a Good Way

When the Research Institute is rewarded for their diligent work healing the knights’ wounds after the salamander incident, Johan asks Sei if there’s anything she wants, and the result is a brand new kitchen. While contractors in this new world are unreal, the cooking apparently sucks, at least when judged by Sei’s palate.

Johan informs her that chefs will be hired, but Sei actually enjoys cooking. When she presents him with a simple yet savory herb-crusted chicken, he’s bowled over. I find it beyond charming that in this series, the OPed MC makes the best-tasting food anyone’s ever eaten, not just because of her magical power, but because no one in this world has ever tasted food from hers.

Another day, Johan introduces Sei to Albert Hawke, the knight commander whose life she saved with her high-level potion. Sei is not only amazed how perfectly he healed after being on death’s door, but he just happens to be her type, standing out in a world full of handsome men.

It’s Sei’s lucky day, then, when Johan tells her Hawke is going to the southern forest with his knights for a hunt, and she’s welcome to join for a medicinal herb-gathering mission. She also prepares lunch for everyone, and Albert makes it a point to sit close to her as he praises her luxurious cuisine. Sei returns home to her room exhausted, but in a good way—not in the way that eventually did her in in her old world.

The next morning, Sei discovers that the lotion she crafted for her face and skin has also somehow corrected her eyesight, eliminating the need to wear glasses anymore. She also learns from Johan that the meals she’s been preparing have resulted in attribute boosts. If her ability got out it could cause chaos, so he gives her the day off.

Given a surprise vacation day for being too good at what she does, a bored Sei discovers the huge and inviting Beauty and the Beast-style library at the royal palace, and meets one Elizabeth Ashley, a noblewoman who looks like a porcelain doll. Before she sets off back to the institute, Albert offers her a ride on his horse. When she says she’s never ridden, he simply rides home with her in a princess lift.


Sei soon befriends “Liz” Ashley, who informs her of a beautifukl new girl at the academy who grew close with several already-betrothed male classmates, leading one of their fiancées to stop coming to class due to her acne. Liz believes this girl’s confidence would return if her skin condition were resolved, and is cetain Sei is the one to resolve it.

Liz introduces the girl, Nicole Adler, to Sei, who offers her a bottle of lotion she crafted. Nicole is dubious until Liz dabs a bit of it on her own skin, which instantly polishes it to a glorious shine. Nicole’s eyes emerge from her long bangs, and she gives a heartfelt thanks to Sei. Later, she writes her to say the lotion worked wonderfully, and invites her to dinner sometime.

So yeah, it’s all coming up Sei. After all of her hard work in her old world led to her demise, here her hard work has wonderous, even miraculous results that make her the toast of the research institute and royal palace alike. But she’s not totally bereft of problems, as Liz reports fresh rumors involving Sei and a certain “Ice Knight” whose heart she’s apparently thawed with her beauty…

Yuru Camp△ – 07 – Good Neighbors

The identity of Cool Campin’ Gramps is quickly revealed: he’s Rin’s grandfather, which makes sense as Rin must’ve caught the camping bug from him. It also explains why Rin has a loop-style tent rather than the commercially ubiquitous sleeve-style; we learn it’s a hand-me-down from her gramps. As for camping, she’s been doing it since her first year of middle school.

Rin and Nadeshiko have the lakeside to themselves but for one other couple: a friendly young lad (or possibly lass) with a wealth of fancy cooking gear and a woman in a hoodie surrounded by cans of beer and flanked by twin bottles of rum. While walking around to take some photos, Nadeshiko introduces herself but doesn’t pry too much, assuming they’re a couple couple and repsecting their privacy.

Nadeshiko returns to find Rin surrounded by a dark miasma—she’s used all of her firestarter but has no fire to show for it. Turns out starting her new grill isn’t as easy as the videos indicated. Nadeshiko immediately proves her value and asks the lad she met earlier to help them out. He lends them a couple instant-light briquettes to get the more fussy Binchoutan coals going.

They thank their camping neighbor and start cooking immediately, starting with grilled skewers and haddock hot pot. We learn from their conversation that the woman accompanying the lad is his older sister, who will soon start work as a high school teacher. If it’s at Rin and Nadeshiko’s school, I can see her ending up the Outclub’s faculty advisor…she’s certainly got Laid-Back down!

As thanks for helping them start their fire, the girls head back to their neighbors to offer some of their completed food, and the lad in turn offers some of his jambalaya, as too much was made for just two. The older sister offers rum, but her brother asks them to ignore her. They’re both pleasantly surprised by the high schoolers cooking skills.

After stuffing themselves on skewers, kalbi, and Hamburg steak, Rin uses the still-glowing coals to start a little wood fire to warm their bones before bed. Rin then learns Nadeshiko is originally from a town near Hamamatsu, where she had a view of Fuji-san, but he was tiny. The day they moved to Yamanashi, she fells asleep in the car and missed a much closer view, which is why she biked up to the campground where she and Rin met.

Now we know that were it not for Nadeshiko’s nodding off, they wouldn’t have met at Lake Motosu and had that lovely first taste of camping together that they’re now fully realizing. The hour grows late, and Rin starts nodding off first, so she heads into her tent, refusing to let Nadeshiko sleep with her as it would be too crowded. I dunno…it looks pretty roomy in there!

After sharing some face lotion with Nadeshiko, knowing from experience what campfire dries out the skin, Rin turns in, but thanks Nadeshiko through the tent for inviting her to go camping. Next time, she’ll be the one to invite her.

Rin wakes up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and is rewarded with a gorgeous and serene view of the lake at night. All of Nadeshiko’s talk about the bull oni that sometimes appears on the lake causes Rin to mistake the drunk, vomiting sister for the oni, causing her to  freak out and book it back to the campsite.

And so, even though Rin wouldn’t let Nadeshiko sleep in her tent, a spooked Rin ends up slipping into Nadeshiko’s. The next morning, Nadeshiko wakes up first, notices Rin is there, and rolls herself over so they’re closer together, in what could be the cutest moment of the show to date. Once they’re both up and ready to break camp, Rin elects to go back the way they came, while Nadeshiko rents a boat to get to the other side. To each their own!

Talk of bull oni aside, this was a particularly laid-back and relaxing Yuru Camp. Other than the brief scene with Rin’s mom and granddad it’s just Rin and Nadeshiko plus their amenable camping neighbors. With their chemistry, there was never any doubt that Rin and Nadeshiko would make great camping companions. I also tend to agree with Rin that while all camping locations have their charms, there’s no substitute for the unique coziness of a wooded lakeside.

Yuru Camp△ – 06 – Girls with Grills

Rin should close up the library, but the heater is so nice she’s hesitant to leave. She realizes she has a package in her bag, and opens it to reveal a collapsible compact portable grill, which is a pretty nifty bit of kit. She also has yet to bump into Nadeshiko in order to give her her gift of chocolate buns from Nagano, but as she tells Ena, she just “can’t get used to the vibe” in the Outclub room.

Rin’s reluctance will soften at some point, what with the opening scene of the series showing both Rin and Ena camping with the Outclub. And her gateway drug to the Outclub is Nadeshiko, whom Rin finds sleeping in the stacks, also enjoying the library heat. Rin can’t help but smile watching Nadeshiko quickly house the chocolate buns.

Knowing that watching Nadeshiko eat something makes that thing look at least twice as delicious, she agrees to go with her on a camping trip, which will also be an opportunity to put her new portable grill—which both Ena and Nadeshiko initially mistake for a metal offertory box—through its paces.

After five episodes of beating around the bush, it’s finally happening: Rin and Nadeshiko are officially taking camping trip together. It was nice to see Sakura, apparently the only fam Nadeshiko has, meeting Rin’s mom, who may be Rin’s only fam. Rin is also struck by Sakura’s beauty, especially in contrast to her “blah” kid sister!

Sakura has agreed to drive them to the Lake Shibire Campgrounds, a little-known spot among the five lakes recommended by Chiaki for their autumnal splendor. Rin and Nadeshiko hit up the supermarket first, and while they’re initially crestfallen by the lack of pork jowl, horumon (offal), skirt, tongue, and ribeye, they do find some convenient and tasty pork and chicken skewers, while Nadeshiko plans to make a mini hot-pot as well.

Their feast thus purchased (and rung up by none other than Aoi, who just so happened to get a job at that particular supermarket), Sakura drives them the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Chiaki is already scouting out another campground for the Outclub’s next excursion, and meets one classy grandpa living his best life in the woods with a single pole tent and a big steak cooking on a cast-iron skillet.

Rin and Nadeshiko arrive and soak in the lovely foliage, then head to the other side of the lake where their campsite is located. Sakura orders a hot chai and takes in the scenery on her own before heading back, planning to return tomorrow at noon. Nadeshiko insists her big sis loves driving—and with that ultra-cool Rasheen, I can’t blame her!—but I felt she put out kind of a lonely vibe this week.

Maybe I’m just misreading her neutral expression. At any rate, I’m super-excited for Rin and Nadeshiko’s first official camping trip. Nadeshiko may crumple at the mere mention of ghosts, such as that of a cow believed to haunt the lake, but with someone as tough as Rin as her campmate, she has nothing to worry about. If anything, that ghost cow should worry about being turned into ghost barbecue!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Yuru Camp△ – 05 – So Far and Yet So Close

The contrasts between the two parallel camping trips continue. The Outclub takes a relaxing dip at the hot springs with an excellent view, while Rin is…still on her bike. As it gets colder and colder she wonders if she was too ambitious right after getting her license.

Still, she presses on due to the rewards of reaching her destination: a rare and unique view that includes Matsumoto City, Lake Suwa, and Fuji-san all together…and the promise of hot springs to warm her road-chilled bones. When all’s said and done, she logged over 150 kilometers.

It is then heartbreaking when, after finally biking the extra 6 km to the hot springs, parking her bike, and grabbing her towel, Rin is greeted by a locked door and a sign saying the springs are closed. Bummer!

Her hot spring plans are dashed, but she’s still excited at the prospect of that rare view…only for it to be covered in thick grey clouds at the designated vantage point. Fortunately, upon reaching the peak of Mt. Takabotchi, the clouds part and reveal a heavenly sight. Heartened and energized, she whips up her first camp meal of one-pot soup-style pasta.

Rin sends a pic of her tasty-looking meal to Nadeshiko, waking her up. She, Aoi and Chiaki went and overslept at the hot springs lounge, underscoring the dangers of hot springs: once you go, it’s very hard to leave! Fortunately, the campground manager doesn’t mind their lateness.

The girls set up their campsite, which also sports a lovely and expansive view. For their first fire they try a Swedish torch, then Nadeshiko prepares a “stewed” curry with tonkatsu ramen powder in the broth, a nifty little hack she’s glad Chiaki notices.

After dinner and marshmallows by the fire, the three soon learn that one tent isn’t big enough for the three of them. Aoi and Chiaki play scissors to Nadeshiko’s paper, so she ends up alone in the crappy blue tent with their gear. No matter; before going to sleep Nadeshiko contacts Rin, who herself is still awake.

The two leave the warmth and comfort of their winter sleeping bags to venture out to the spots with the best night view possible, all so they can exchange where they are with one another. As the soundtrack swells their reactions to receiving each other’s photos says it all: While they may be far away from each other, overlooking different glowing cityscapes, they share the same starry night sky.

It’s a beautiful way to conclude both Rin and the Outclub’s most ambitious camping trips yet, Rin’s long cold ride being a particularly impressive accomplishment. She and Nadeshiko may have shared a couple of meals, but they still have yet to officially camp together. We’ll see if they’ll remain apart for their next excursions, or if Rin and Nadeshiko ditch the LINE and experience the sky while standing beside each other.

Yuru Camp△ – 03 – Return of the Favor

We watch the day Rin goes camping from Nadeshiko’s perspective, as she searches the family storage shed for a tent only to find it’s a canopy tent; useless for cold nights. When she gets word Rin is at Fumoto, Nadeshiko has her very cool sister Sakura drive her there—in her extremely cool Nissan Rasheen.

That’s how Nadeshiko comes to surprise Rin with hot pot ingredients. Last time she intruded on Rin’s camping, it was unintentional, and she mooched off of her; this time she wants to pay her back by preparing a home-cooked meal for her. Who’s going to refuse that?!

By the time it’s ready, night has fallen, and Rin has learned that Nadeshiko is fond of doing a “country granny bit”. Still, upon tasting the dish, both Rin and Nadeshiko are overcome by warmth and coziness, so much so in fact that they must shed some layers even in the cold night!

Rin also observes that Nadeshiko is an absolute pro at making food look really, really good…and is also fond of eating a lot of it! After dinner, Rin apologizes for coming off as annoyed at school, while Nadeshiko apologizes for being too imposing. Rin agrees to go camping with her and maybe others in the future.

With that Rin, retires to her tent, while Nadeshiko sleeps in the car with her sister. Sakura has to force the issue when the alarm goes off and Nadeshiko insists she’s awake even though she’s still horizontal. As Sakura drives off to buy breakfast, Nadeshiko makes good on her plan to be up at dawn.

Watching the night sky gradually brighten as the sun rises from behind Fuji-san is a gorgeous, majestic sight to behold. As someone who is rarely up for sunrises, whenever I am by choice it’s definitely a warm, empowering feeling…the feeling of accomplishment, and the feeling that everything is just beginning.

Eventually, the sun proves too bright for the still very drowsy Nadeshiko, so she curls up inside Rin’s tent. When Rin wakes up and notices her, it’s time to wake up, but she can’t rouse her, so she goes back to sleep too. The next day at school, Rin looks through all the pics she took on her phone, including with Nadeshiko.

Her friend Saitou Ena (Takahashi Rie!) is glad the two are getting along, mentioning she too would consider camping once it gets warmer in six months or so. The main takeaway is that there’s nothing wrong with camping solo, but camping with someone also has its appeal, just as sharing a meal with someone usually makes that meal taste better.

Yuru Camp△ – 02 – Wide-Open Camp

This was never going to be a show just about two girls, so this week Nadeshiko joins her school’s Outdoor Activities Club, or Outclub for short. To my surprise, Shima Rin is not a member, which in hindsight explains why she always camps solo. The only two members of the club are Oogaki Chiaki and Inuyama Aoi. Aoi convinces Chiaki that if they increase the club to at least four members, they may be able to get a larger clubroom.

A lot of comedy is suceesfully mined from the current clubroom, which is more of a cloakroom. Its surreally absurd narrowness reminded me of the low ceilings at Lestercorp office in Being John Malkovich. But a good point is made: it doesn’t really matter how small their indoor clubroom is. Their true clubroom is the great outdoors!

Aoi shows Nadeshiko some tent magazines so she can become familiar with the pros and cons of various types, but Chiaki suggest they leave the cozy confines of their clubroom for the courtyard to put theory into practice. This is where Rin, reading in the library, finally spots Nadeshiko and realizes they attend the same school.

Unfortunately, the club’s super-cheap (¥980!) tent’s support poles snaps. Rin’s friend Saitou Ena asks if there’s a way to repair it, and just happens to have the little bit needed to do so, having “found it in lost-and-found!” After helping the other girls fix the pole, Ena makes it a point to point out “Shimarin”, and Nadeshiko is so excited to see her she rushes headlong into a plate glass window.

While it’s fun to meet Chiaki and Aoi and see how Nadeshiko fits into their club, the first half of this second outing was missing the sweet natural serenity of camping that drew me in. Fortunately, the second half makes up for that as Rin goes on another solo camping trip, this time in the wide-open fields of the Fumoto Campgrounds.

As Tateyama Akiyuki’s breezy guitar gently strums, Rin proceeds with her elegant, joy-sparking ritual. Never has watching someone set up a campsite felt so wonderfully relaxing. After exchanging some playful texts with Ena (and it’s absolutely 100% important to let a friend know where you’ve gone) and weighing the costs of a fire, Rin goes on a leisurely stroll, sees the sights, and snaps some photos.

As she settles in with a book and some tea, Fuji-san starts to turn pink from the setting sun—a breathtakingly gorgeous image that, as with all images of Fuji, doesn’t remotely do the real thing justice but is a fair facimilie. She thinks back to the other day at school when Nadeshiko approached her, and in response to her offer of a camping trip together she gave her a disgusted look.

Rin didn’t didn’t want her solo camp time to be threatened—and who can blame her…it’s bliss!—but realizes that it was “kinda crappy” of her not even try to hide it. But who should then appear at her campsite but Nadeshiko, bearing a big bag full of groceries!

Ena told Nadeshiko where Rin was staying. While this certainly wasn’t what Rin planned (like last time), she has grown tired of eating cup ramen. She’d hoped to try some real cooking, but none of the supermarkets on her way were open. Now that Nadeshiko is here, they can cook after all (and maybe split the cost of firewood and a stand). Trading solitude for al fresco hot pot—I think that’s a trade off Rin can live with!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House – 01 (First Impressions) – Always Giving Their All

Nozuki Kiyo and her best friend Herai Sumire moved to the Kagai district of Kyoto from Aomuri at sixteen. Sumire came to become a maiko (an apprentice geiko, the Kyoto version of geisha), while Kiyo found her place in the kitchen of the house where all the maiko live like a family. We meet Kiyo as she’s carrying a sherpa’s load of groceries for the next round of meals.

We meet Sumire when she sticks her head into the kitchen to say hi in between her extremely rigorous study and practice. After meeting with her sensei, she learns she’s been given permission to debut, making it official: she’s going to be a maiko. Kiyo hugs her and congratulates her from the bottom of her heart, and Sumire has to excuse herself to wash away her tears of joy. It’s a lovely moment between good friends on very different paths, who happen to be able to still live together.

While serving the sensei and Maiko House’s mother, Kiyo learns that Sumire is extremely special, and may have what it takes to become a “once-in-a-century maiko.” The sensei compares Kiyo’s cooking and baking skills unfavorably to her “truly impressive” friend, but Kiyo isn’t insulted or hurt…she’s in full agreement that Sumire is indeed amazing.

In fact, it’s precisely because Sumire is so amazing and always gives her all, Kiyo is able to work hard to provide the Maiko house with nourishing, savory, energy packed meals to sustain their packed schedules. Kiyo even goes a little overboard for lunch one day, serving over a half-dozen dishes that could each be supper by themselves.

While many of the maiko tap out before they can finish their portions, Sumire eats everything put in front of her, which is what Kiyo wants to see. If Sumire is going to give her all in becoming a maiko, Kiyo is going to give her all keeping her fed.

Then we meet a recently retired otokoshi, one of only a handful of men in the Kagai district who assist maiko and geiko with putting on their kimono, as well as doing heavy lifting and other manual labor the women either can’t or shouldn’t do (hernias are a bitch). In Kiyo’s case, she needs him to move the fridge so she can pull out the cookbooks that fell behind it.

Kiyo thanks the otokoshi by serving him coffee and a fresh-baked scone…a pretty good deal! Then Kiyo moves on to a matter of increasing concern for both her and the house mother: Sumire is working so hard, she’s skipping meals with regularity, and starting to lose weight.

Rather than, say, lasso Sumire and force-feed her, Kiyo plans to prepare some smaller dishes packed with energy so Sumire can quickly get the nutrients she needs to keep going. Her secret weapon is a local dish from their home prefecture of Aomuri: fried squid mince. A familiar taste of home is just what her hungry friend needs.

Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House is very straightforward, but with the subject matter it’s presenting it doesn’t have to be anything more than that. It’s also lovely to look at and full of lush blend of traditional and modern music. Hanazawa Kana and MAO are captivating as the voices of Kiyo and Sumire, and their little “Dish of the Day” omake bits provide fun punctuation between the three segments. It’s pure comfort food and a warm, soft blanket rolled into one, and I loved it!

Jujutsu Kaisen – 19 – Let’s Get Cooking

Kamo, Megumi, and Toge are just treading water against a charging Hanami thanks to Toge’s cursed speech, but when his voice gives out, it’s up to Maki to save their lives by entering the battle with a cursed sansetsukon. She and Megumi go toe-to-toe with Hanami for a time, but they’re eventually overpowered—such is the might of a Special-Grade. Fortunately, that’s when the cavalry shows up: Best Pals Yuuji and Aoi.

At first, Aoi has Yuuji face Hanami alone, and won’t help until Yuuji executes a “Black Flash”. Yuuji is initially trying to let his anger fuel his strength, but Aoi warns him that won’t work, and slaps any and all unhelpful thoughts out of his head. Yuuji’s able to pull off the Black Flash, tearing Hanami’s arms off.

Aoi proudly declares that after simply throwing ingredients he’s never tasted into a pot and boiling them away, Yuuji is now tasting cursed energy and making haute cuisine with it. Whether or not it’s meant as a nod to Food Wars, it’s a pretty apt analogy. With Aoi joining Yuuji in the fight, Hanami decides to remove the bandage on their left arm.

The fight that ensues is a dizzily marvelous display of smooth yet breakneck combat animation, with Aoi and Yuuji bobbing and weaving through Hanami’s tangle of roots and branches and synchronizing their strikes.

Hanami recalls a time on the beach when Mahito accused them of holding back their full strength and not “enjoying” the fights the way curses should. Mahito likens tricking, deceiving, and murdering to be analogous to humans’ eating, sleeping, and screwing, defining instincts that are blended with—but never wholly suppressed by—reason.

It’s clear Aoi and Yuuji are having a blast working together, and Hanami also realizes they’re enjoying this battle to the fullest precisely because there’s no holding back. Of course, we know Aoi is holding back a cursed technique, but with Hanami still coming on strong, that’ll change starting next week.

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 10 – A Life of Firsts

This week we get four more cozy, sweet, heartwarming, adorable, feel-good slice-of-life segments with Nasa, Tsukasa, and the Arisugawas. Tonikawa has long since established itself as a wonderfully earnest crowd-pleasing show, and continues to not let me down!

Fry, Don’t Buy—Nasa and Tsukasa’s temporary new home was previously used to store all of Kaname and Aya’s dad’s “nerd crap”, but the couple is welcome to whatever useful items they find. The result is a thoroughly “old-fashioned” living space complete with huge CRT TV.

Tsukasa prepares tonkatsu for dinner, a favorite of mine, and Nasa is again shocked and impressed by his wife’s culinary skill. Nasa’s a super-utilitarian person, and was raised with rice cookers and a “buy-not-fry” mentality, but Tsukasa shows him the rewards of an honestly home-cooked meal. Nasa, in turn, feeds Tsukasa some delicious melon for dessert.

A Model Home—A favorable update to their living sitch, his landlord is rebuilding and they’re welcome to move back in with the same rent and no deposit. They even arranged a model room for Nasa and Tsukasa to inspect before making a decision, and they are surprised to find it’s an ultra-luxurious apartment with a bird’s-eye-view of the city.

Tsukasa sits in the huge bathtub with a view and the two get red-cheeked over the prospect of sharing a big bed together, but in the back of their heads they’re always wondering if this was really meant to be the model room for them to look at. Turns out it isn’t—their landlord made an error—but the couple isn’t disheartened. Big or small, new or old, home for Tsukasa will be wherever Nasa is. He feels the same way.

Helping out at the Bath—Kaname opens this segment, going over her morning routine of getting up at 5:30 to clean and prepare the bath for customers before heading to school. Tsukasa offers her services as thanks for her continuing kindness and hospitality, and shows she’s just as highly competent at cleaning as cooking.

In cleaning the entire men’s side of the baths, Tsukasa comes to admire Kaname for the hard work she does every day. Kaname comes to understand why Nasa loves her, and they adopt informal nicknames and by morning’s end are officially friends. Aya, on the other hand, laments the prospect of being shunted off to a spin-off.

An Evening Stroll—After Nasa declares after thorough mathematical analysis that his favorite food is curry, he and Tsukasa head to the store to buy some curry powder and decide to make an evening stroll of it. A cheeky Kaname and Aya’s mom tells Nasa about a nice quiet secluded park where he can make out with Tsukasa, adding some spice to their marriage after buying spice.

Ultimately, Tsukasa declines Nasa’s offer to kiss, since they both just ate garlicky steamed buns from the store. Nasa doesn’t care (and indeed most people who love each other don’t really care about mildly bad breath) but she’s self-conscious about it. So instead, Nasa suddenly embraces Tsukasa from behind, both surprising and exciting her.

He asks her how her married life is going so far, and she remarks on how many firsts she’s experienced with him and will continue to experience—among those being the intimate position they’re currently in. She looks forward to experiencing more firsts with him, and Nasa doubtlessly feels likewise.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 09 – Never Make Her Cry

We reset back to before everything turns to shit, but as we’ve learned from the previous arcs, there’s plenty of shit lurking just beneath the shiny happy surface of Keiichi & Co.’s daily life in Hinamizawa. Having had Rika and Mion/Shion-centric arcs, now it’s time for the focus on Satoko.

When Mion brings in fancy leftovers, Mion and Keiichi agree to a cooking duel, but Keiichi is abysmally bad at cooking. Seriously, he’s so clueless he almost burns his house down. Luckily Satoko and Rika are there to not only put out the fire, but salvage his dinner, and Kei-chan is thankful for both.

As Rika puts it to Kei before biking home for the night, Satoko is in need of someone Rika can’t replace: her big brother Satoshi, who ran away from home under myterious circumstances. Despite, or perhaps because of their sibling-like combative manner with each other, Kei makes for the perfect surrogate nii-nii.

Simple things like shopping for ingredients, cooking them, and sharing meals together clearly brightens Satoko’s day immeasurably. Similarly, when Satoko needs someone to cheer her on in a crucial at-bat, Kei arrives just in time, and as a result, she hits the winning home run and wins her team free BBQ.

At this BBQ, during which everyone has fun, Kei meets someone new: Irie, who loves Satoko’s smile, and while he can’t adopt her for “various legal reasons”, has no qualms about citing his plans to eventually ask for Satoko’s hand in marriage when she comes of age. Shion is similarly enamored of Satoko, considering herself a big-sis figure.

Irie’s words to Kei—never make Satoko cry—sound like his prime directive for this arc, which he’ll have to follow to avoid disaster. But that will surely come anyway, since Kei overhears two boys talking about how Satoko’s brother Satoshi was a victim of Oyashiro’s curse.

The destructively-curious Kei is eager to pick at this particular scab, and while Rena will have none of it, Mion tells him more: Satoko’s parents were the leaders of the pro-dam movement, as the gov’t offered big payouts to anyone who agreed to move out of the village. They died falling off an observation deck, which is super-suspicious, while Satoshi is believed to have run away to avoid the curse, but could also have been “demoned away”.

In any case, part of “not letting Satoko cry” means keeping all this under wraps, especially around her. And as we learn, and as I’ve suspected since that unsettling end credits image of her looking frightened as a man in a Hawaiian shirt looms over her, Satoko already has enough to cry about.

As we see the loud, drunk, boorish “Uncle Teppei” lead her into an isolated house, It’s almost a certainty some kind of physical and/or sexual abuse is taking place. For all the people who love Satoko and are watching over her, there’s clearly a huge gap in their blanket of protection. However explicit the arc gets about this, I hope Kei & Co. can manage a way to free Satoko from this particular hell…assuming they ever learn about it.

Warlords of Sigrdrifa – 03 – The Secret to Strength

Move over Claudia—Miyako has quickly risen to my favorite of the four Tateyama Valkyries, and it really isn’t much of a contest. Early in the morning, after a vision-like meeting with Odin during which he warns Claudia not to get her new friends killed (what a dick), Claudia meets up with Miko, as they’re the only two who use the dojo.

Claudia used it because her father lived in Japan and imparted a lot of its culture into her upbringing, while Miyako grew up in a dojo. It was a stern and structured childhood, and her mom told her “she’s cute, but dumb, so learn housework”. Miyako took that to heart, and can now cook breakfast for the entire base.

But it’s more than cooking for Miyako, as we’ve seen in past episodes and reinforced this week. She’s basically both wife and mother to Azuzu, who doesn’t function well outside the cockpit (or in the morning). Of course, Miko doesn’t mind taking care of her, while Azu tries not to take it for granted.

After breakfast, the sleepy commander (a lot of people are yawning around the base) issues Claudia, Miko and Sono a special mission: a “Disaster Recovery Assessment” of Umihotaru, the shopping and entertainment isle they successfully defended last week. Miko is initially hesitant to agree to go, but when Azu (staying behind for maintenance meetings) reassures her, she’s in.

The “assessment” that follows is totally unlike the official military operation Claudia expected. Instead, the three girls (with three very happy and lucky escorts from among the guys) have was amounts to a day full of fun and diversion. They hit up the arcades. No one lets them pay for anything, because the Valkyries are their idols and saviors.

When Claudia finally asks when the actual assessment will happen, Miko tells her, simply, they’re doing it. It’s enough for them to avail themselves of Umihotaru’s facilities and witness all of the people happy and smiling. Miko runs out into the middle of a crowd to yell out “How’s everyone doing?” and sure enough, everyone’s super.

On the way home, the girls stop for ice cream, but Miko gets a call from Azu and immediately returns to base on the back of a motorcycle. When Claudia and Sono catch up, Claudia learns why Miko had to go so suddenly, why she was weary of going on the trip at all, and why everyone is so sleepy. Turns out a member of the recon team is in critical condition and near death.

Miyako takes her additional Valkyrie role of sending off soldiers as seriously as Azu scornfully shirks that duty entirely. It’s clear this is not the first soldier she’s been with when they die, nor will it be the last, but no one will ever tell her it’s stupid or a superstition.

If, as Azu says, only “idiots” do it, then Claudia would rather be an idiot too, joining Miko for the solemn task, and aiding the soldier’s passing by singing a soulful song. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking, poignant scene I didn’t think this show had in it, but I was mistaken.

A few hours later, Miyako is back in the dojo training vigorously, tears mixing with her sweat as she goes through her practiced combat motions. Claudia, who arrives in time to train with Miko, doesn’t feel worthy. After watching the soldier pass away and thinking of Odin’s words and all the others who died while she piloted her plane, Claudia is feeling weak and ashamed what she feels to be an unearned reputation for strength.

When Miko finds her outside, Clau asks her, “How are you so strong?” To her surprise, Miko answers that she doesn’t think she’s strong at all. Claudia isn’t alone in never thinking she’s doing enough, that everything she doesn’t do will hurt others. But Miko adds, if Clau insists she’s strong, she’ll let her in on the secret to that strength: Don’t be a picky eater! So Claudia tries the sashimi for breakfast, and finds it delicious.

That Miyako is always trying to keep everyone smiling and positive, whether they’re going through the daily grind, in the heat of battle, or on death’s door. Her generosity and emotional intelligence is unmatched among the characters of Sigrdrifa, which when paired with Odin’s warning of something big on the horizon gives me terrible pause. Could this episode have been one big Miyako Death Flag? I sure hope not.

Rating: 4/5 Stars