Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 08

The things that went down last week and at the beginning of this week can’t be undone; there’s no convenient return to the status quo where everyone scatters but remains free.

Instead, Kaisar crosses the line into straight-up treason by interfering with and raising a sword to King Charioce, in an attempt to stop him from fighting Azazel.

Azazel doesn’t want Kaisar’s help and is through listening to his prattle, so Kaisar ends up having to fight both Azazel and Charioce at once, in another nicely-animated little setpiece.

He bests both of them, thanks to a well-placed fist and his metal arm…but while the fight is over, there will be consequences for all involved.

Mugaro, who came to try to help Azazel and the demons, ends up captured by Sofiel, who goes ahead and captures Bacchus and Hamsa while she’s at it. Azazel pleads with Nina to transform into a dragon already, but Nina is confused, overwhelmed, and most importantly, her heart is not racing.

Since that’s only way she’s ever been able to transform, and because she’s never willingly transformed, she can’t become a dragon, so she’s arrested along with Azazel and Kaisar.

All the townsfolk who know and love Nina know she’d never be capable of treason against the king, but when they defend her too forcefully, they’re threatened with charges of treason, and everyone clams up. Not Nina herself, however. In shackles, on her knees, and without leave to speak, Nina lets Charioce have it with both barrels, with the general thesis of her rant being that he’s an evil bully of a king.

In a show full of characters with overly florid language, it’s nice to hear Nina speak plainly but forcefully about how much Charioce sucks. If she recognizes him as her date during the festival, she doesn’t let on, and Charioce doesn’t reveal himself to her. He orders her and Kaisar be sent to the prison tower, where they’ll stay “indefinitely”, and more importantly, be unable to further interfere with his plans.

Those plans involve finishing off the gods, who he’ll allow scored a win by capturing Mugaro, but still thinks they’re being overconfident, and likes his odds of destroying them, after which Jeanne d’Arc will finally stop praying.

The name Jeanne gave her child Mugaro is “El”, and that’s what Gabriel calls him (her?) while trying to make a deal: if he lends his power in helping them put the humans back in their place, he’ll be able to see his mother again.

As for Bacchus and Hamsa, they’re being held in some kind of strange void, also likely indefinitely. Hamsa tries everything to free them, but Bacchus isn’t sorry for protecting Mugaro, which he did because he merely “felt like it”, and isn’t okay with them using him.

Nina and Kaisar’s imprisonment (the bickering ferrymen was a nice detail) also offers them the opportunity to meet a couple of very interesting people with cells adjacent to their own. Nina discovers Jeanne d’Arc, while Kaisar spots a grizzled, bearded Favaro Leone, who finally makes his entrance in Virgin Soul.

By the end of the episode, we have Mugaro, Bacchus, Hamsa, Nina, and Kaisar all in custody or imprisoned; only Rita is free. It’s a refreshing, stakes-raising development after many earlier close calls. I’m not sure how everyone is going to get out of their cages, or what role Favaro will play, but I’m certainly eager to find out.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 07

It ain’t just the game of thrones—in the game of love, you win or you die…romantically speaking. It’s take no prisoners; shit or get off the pot; even moreso when you’re young and just figuring this stuff out.

With the Dome City amusement park as the setting for this outstanding episode, Akane, Kotarou, Chinatsu and Hira all learn harsh lessons about the game they’re all playing, the risks and rewards of being passive or active, and how being on the winning side can be fleeting. It’s a side that must be defended.

I honestly can’t stop snickering at Kotarou’s face while on the roller coaster. That is the face of someone very unhappy he didn’t decline Chinatsu’s suggestion they sit together. He might as well be shouting over the roar of the coaster ‘I’VE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE!’

Because he’s next to Chinatsu, Akane is next to Hira, and because she doesn’t handle coasters so hot, it’s Hira, not Chinatsu, who serves as her support during and after the ride. It doesn’t help Kotarou that the majority of the rest of the group is shipping Akane and Hira (except Roman, who we learn has had his suspicions about Kotarou and Akane before Kotarou confirms it).

Kotarou and Akane simply start out the trip all wrong, due to their general passivity in a scenario that requires activity. Akane ends up with Hira a lot of the time, but did nothing to prevent it; Kotarou ends up with a super-aggressive Chinatsu, who understands she’s got to hustle to have any chance over Akane…and may even be moving so fast and forcefully because she already knows she has no chance.

In either case, after Kotarou sees Akane with Hira, Akane sees Kotarou with Chinatsu, and after some time passes, Kotarou sees Akane with Hira AGAIN, Kotarou has finally had it; he’s groaned his last ineffectual groan. Time for some muthafuckin’ ACTION!

He calls out to Akane, then tells Hira he’s in a relationship with her, which she backs up. He then takes her by the hand and they walk off, just in time for Chinatsu to spot them together. As her tears start to fall on the souvenir photo of her and Kotarou on the coaster, I can’t help but feel for her. She got off to a good start, but ends up running out of steam.

After a great series of reactions from the group after Roman confirms Kotarou and Akane are going out (which NO one else saw coming), the happy new couple finally has their precious time alone. What had felt like such a delicate bond strengthens with each activity they do together.

I appreciate how they mirrored my own glee over the whole situation with lots of beaming and giddy laughter, neither of them able to contain their elation at being able to hang out together.

After eating together for the first time, going on various rides and to a haunted house, the two close in closer and closer for a couple selfie, and their bubbly contentment only intensifies when they see how much like a couple they look in the photo.

Meanwhile, Chinatsu returns to the group, her eyes raw from crying, and her girl-friends get the bad news that Kotarou chose Akane over her. Chinatsu might’ve stolen Akane for the coaster and gotten temporarily “lost” with him, Akane ends up stealing him back, though mostly thanks to Kotarou taking action.

No matter; it’s the action Akane wanted to be taken. She’ll be the proactive one next time. As the fireworks explode across the night sky, Kotarou takes her hands in his and leans in for a kiss, and Akane leans in right back.

A nosy little shrimp interrupts them (where are your damn parents, kid?), but they get so goshdarned close to kissing, I’m going to go ahead and call it a kiss, even if it isn’t officially their first kiss. Neither of them bailed out; it was a matter of being surprised by an outside stimulus. Close enough, I say!

Chinatsu…she was never that close, because Kotarou simply isn’t interested in her the way he is in Akane, just as Akane isn’t into Hira that way. At the end of the night, Akane and Kotarou are exactly where they should be, where they want to be.

hen Chinatsu texts Akane that she couldn’t confess, Akane says “Sorry” to herself. I’ve no doubt she feels bad about Chinatsu getting hurt. Chinatsu was the one who chose to keep going even though she knew Akane was with Kotarou, but Akane could have been more forceful in discouraging her.

But at the end of the day, when made to choose between her happiness and Chinatsu’s, there is no choice. It’s shitty not being the one chosen, but that’s life. Akane and Kotarou won the game today. They deserved to savor their victory. Here’s hoping the wins keep coming. They must be vigilant.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 07

While watching the first half of this Baha Soul, I felt like the calm before the storm achieved last week didn’t need the supplemental calm we got here. Just get on with the parade and let things unravel.

Don’t get me wrong, Nina is adorable as always, especially post-first-date, it’s ironic to think the fact she dressed Mugaro as a girl means Sofiel can’t tell he’s the kid she’s looking for, despite staring straight at him.

It’s also laudable for Kaisar to warn his king not to attend the parade, because unpleasant doings sure to transpire. But we know Charioce isn’t going to miss a parade celebrating his great day of victory—when Cocytus fell and with it the fear of demons—for fear of demons.

But when the parade finally starts, the tension keeps building until that first concussive blast, followed by several more. It’s a terror bombing the king was almost daring the demons to pull off, and being surrounded and unable to retreat is no sweat off his back.

It’s a nice touch that in a carefully-planned battle in which she was meant to be the pièce de résistance for the resistance, Nina doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. She’s suddenly scooped up by Azazel, who proceeds, in hilarious fashion, to alternated between staring deeply and intensely into Nina’s eyes and hugging her.

But the blushing never comes. Nina’s heart doesn’t race for Azazel anymore, not necessarily because of anything he did, but because of what her mystery date did: make her once general discomfort with pretty men much more specific. She doesn’t know why she’s not transforming even after almost being kissed by Azazel, but she also seems relieved. I know I would be.

I can’t fault for Nina not cooperating with Azazel – she wants her dragon form under control, not weaponized, and certainly doesn’t want to hurt people. At best, she’s annoyed by the kind, shrugging off missing him in the parade (incidentally, if they’d locked eyes while he passed I wonder if she’d see her date and if her heart would’ve raced accordingly. Alas).

But, Nina not playing ball with Azazel means the demons are dealt another defeat, picked off one by one by Charioce’s forces. Many start to think they were betrayed by Azazel, until he swoops in to fight beside them. But when they asked what the hell happened with the red dragon, he has no answer.

Post-credits, the big tank demon and sultry demon are taken out by a flurry of arrows and the fist of one of those giant golem/mecha guys (that don’t seem like a good idea in a crowded city), respectively. Azazel is also in big trouble, and Nina still isn’t yet caught up on what’s even happening.

Finally, the preview was handled by Gabriel and Sofiel, who haughtily boast of the fact they’re beautiful gods.

Saekano 2 – 06

Both the immediate (Eriri collapsing) and long-term (finishing the game) crises are resolved this week, with one major caveat: to rescue Eriri, Tomoya gave up on a full Winter Comiket release, even though that’s the reason Eriri ended up in such a state (that, and her obsession with quality with the threat of Hashima Izumi looming).

Ironically, it’s Izumi’s bro (and Tomoya’s chief rival) Iori who comes to Tomoya’s aid, offering a ride to Eriri’s villa. Tomoya finds Eriri really did get everything done, and more to the point, he believes it’s her best work and the best work he’s seen all year.

That brings a smile to the gradually-recovering Eriri, but she’s even happier to hear him say, categorically, that she’s his “number one;” that her new art is better than Izumi’s. She doesn’t mind that he doesn’t go so far as to tell her she’s beaten Utaha and Michiru, but she happily infers it.

After that, the two settle back into the same routine as when they were little kids: staying indoors, playing games and watching anime, which Tomoya both notes was because Eriri was so sick so often, but also doesn’t complain about.

He goes further in wanting to apologize to the others in Eriri’s stead, as he’s the director and all, but Eriri insists: if she can’t apologize properly, she can’t keep moving forward. So she does so, and the whole crew is on hand for Winter Comiket…albeit with only 100 hastily burned copies of Cherry Blessing.

It’s shocking how quickly all the work they’d done suddenly becomes a finished product, which sells out within 30 minutes due to lots of buzz about a new game with studs like Kashiwagi and Kasumi collaborating. At the market, Eriri also apologizes to Izumi for how she treated her, and explains why she did (fear of being surpassed).

Yet in the midst Eriri dispensing all of her apologies and the team dispensing every last copy of their game, something seems off. The camera uncharacteristically lingers on Megumi too often, and she seems to be hiding something that will certainly rain on the parade of the big release.

Content to quietly skip the post-release party and go home for the time being, when Tomoya forces the issue, she finally has a very Kato-ish “outburst”, one that cuts Tomoya to the quick, far more than if she had yelled or cried. In his haste to save Eriri, he neglected to tell her about anything that was going on, during the precise days she said she’d make sure she was available for him, no matter what.

Tomoya took her earnest promises and commitments lightly, and ultimately ignored them altogether and took everything on himself, keeping her in the dark until everything worked out. That is something Megumi cannot forget, nor easily forgive.

As happy as I am to see Tomoya and Eriri on such good terms again, I can’t say I blame Megumi. If getting out of the doghouse is even possible, Tomoya, with his famous lack of awareness, may find doing so even tougher than making a dating sim from scratch.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 06

Uh-oh…the dreaded Pinky Promise, long the bane of many a budding middle school relationship. Tsuki ga Kire’s couple makes theirs after Kotarou gets a call from a publisher in the city and Akane prepares for her big meet, and the two are determined to achieve their dreams.

No matter how much Kotarou’s mom worries about his future, or how much Akane’s family gawks at her upon figuring out she’s dating someone, they like having each other around, supporting each other both in person and on LINE.

Both are drawing strength and ever-so-gradually becoming bolder, braver people, as demonstrated when Akane texted Kotarou that she wanted to discuss something with him (namely, the Chinatsu situation). But they’re in such high spirits after the pinky promise, Akane leaves it for another day…The worst possible day she could leave it for, the day of the big track meet.

She manages to get out to Chinatsu that she’s already in a relationship with Kotarou, which is good, but the timing couldn’t be worse in terms of the emotional toll it takes on her. Chinatsu, for her part, already knew—they’re friends, after all—but when the time comes to race, Akane is so weighted down by complex, conflicting emotions, she ends up with a terrible time and is eliminated, while Chinatsu has a personal best and advances. Ouch.

Akane isn’t the only one to take an L, mind you: when Kotarou sneaks out to make the long trip to the publisher, he’s full of cautious optimism, determined to fulfill his promise to Akane and to himself, eager to take the first step towards joining the ranks of his beloved highbrow authors…only to be crushed like a bug under a different weight than the one that slowed Akane: literary reality.

The publisher minces no words: Kotarou is not cut out for the kind of literature he attempted and submitted, but he may just have a knack for “light novel type stuff”, which Kotarou is clearly not into.

So after pumping each other up so much and pounding the pavement with confidence and gusto, secure in knowing the other is trying their best right beside them, Akane and Kotarou end up having the worst day. And I’ll tell you, I felt every ounce of their combined…er…worstitude; I really did.

I felt Akane’s exasperation over her best friend’s crush on Kotarou, which just so happens to be mercilessly translated into a literal footrace with her friend-and-now-rival. I felt Kotarou’s crushing disappointment that his odyssey to the city was all for naught.

And I definitely felt the both of them not feeling the slightest bit better once they return to their homes. Akane’s parents are warm enough and tell her there’ll be other races, while her sister tells her it’s going to be very hard to remain friends with someone still actively after her boyfriend.

Kotarou’s mom lets him have it as soon as he comes in the door, telling him no good will come of the thing he’s most passionate about doing (though is dad is more sympathetic). Dayum.

Sometimes family helps you recharge and heal from the stress and wounds of the world out there, but sometimes they contribute to it. Which is why I was so glad that after so much mutual moping about, in the middle of the night, by the light of her phone, Akane finally gets a message on a screen still mockingly displaying the optimism they expressed before the day began.

Just three simple words: I miss you. Akane only needs two: Me too. The two meet up in the library the next morning, cheered a little by their mere presence, and cheered more by their shared determination not to give up on track or writing, to work even harder so awful days like yesterday won’t become a common occurrence. They reaffirm their still-active pinky promise, to which they wisely did not assign a deadline.

And yet their struggles are far from over. When Akane meets with Chinatsu on a beautiful tree-wreathed path bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun, there’s a friendly, conciliatory mood to the proceedings: Akane apologizes for not telling Chinatsu sooner; Chinatsu apologizes for falling for Kotarou.

That mood is upturned by one last, frankly cheeky request by Chinatsu: that she be allowed to confess to Kotarou, for “closure.” And herein lies the danger about which Akane’s big sister warned her: neither confrontation with Chinatsu over Kotarou resulted in closure. Chinatsu, fresh of her big track win, is feeling more confident than ever, while Akane has never felt less, despite the fact she has the guy.

But it doesn’t matter if Kotarou immediately says no. Putting Akane in such a position at all is a clown move by Chinatsu, straight up, as is pretending it’s not a big deal. It’s also a possible prelude to war, a war for Kotarou’s heart. And when friends go to war, they tend not to stay friends.

3-gatsu no Lion – 18

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Nikaidou and Shigeta are always fighting over the proper move to make, on diametrically opposite sides like Vader and Obi-wan. Neither ever seems to back down, resulting in escalation that has to be refereed by Shimada.

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The boys’ pulpy, comic-booky visualizations contrast sharply with the match Rei gets into with Shimada. Their visuals are more refined and rooted in classical art. It’s not just a matter of how the two pairs approach the shogi workshop.

Shimada’s elegant blue waves crashing against Rei’s hazy red base until he and it are consumed by the torrent. The exhaustion Rei feels afterwards in his overlfowing tub, are a means of expressing what it’s like for an A-rank player to come at your with everything he’s got.

Shimada isn’t just trying to beat Rei, but to learn something new from him, something that might not have occurred to him. Anything will do; after all, he’s one loss away from a do-or-die match with the reigning champion.

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Back at school, Rei examines his report card, which indicates he just squeaked by and will be advancing to the next grade. When he looks at the last school year, Rei laments how little he accomplished.

Hayashida-sensei lets him know what an ordinary 17-year-old typically accomplishes (not much) and how little he accomplished at that age, and puts things in perspective. Rei is not a kid who seeks praise directly, so as usual he finds all this praise uncomfortable.

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In another nice crossover of worlds, Hina comes by with Momo in tow to collect their empty food boxes. Both girls are very on-edge, but after downing a stiff drink composed of cold milk, Hina asks what she came to ask—who that beautiful, bad-tempered girl was—and gets an answer that satisfies both her and Mom.

Kyouko isn’t, in fact, a witch, she’s just his big sister. Siblings fight all the time, but they’re still close. The girls comprehend this from their own experiences with each other and Akari. It’s a nice air-clearing scene that brings warmth to Rei’s apartment, and lil’ kid expert Kuno Misaki and superstar Kana-chan kick ass as usual.

 

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I’ll just leave this here because it gave me a chuckle. It’s been a minute since I’ve seen Castle in the Sky…

Of course, when that’s what Hina tells Akari back home, the older sister wonders if it’s not actually worse than if Kyouko were Rei’s girlfriend. After all, from what she saw, Rei and Kyouko weren’t very close, despite ten years of living together.

Akari suspects that distance was the reason Rei yearned to leave that home, though to be fair to Rei and Kyouko, Akari doesn’t know the intricacies of their relationship, or the fact that every time they see one another they struggle to resolve what exactly they are, while simultaneously never doubting for a second that they’re…something.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 17

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Note: I have taken over reviews of 3-gatsu no Lion from Zane in exchange for ceding Little Witch Academia to Franklin. Call it a three-way trade. What does Zane get? RESPECT.

This was the first 3G of the show’s second half that never really felt like it was dragging. Even in its “weakest” first section, there’s still the formal exchange between Rei and his father, as well as the sun shower and encounter with the ethereal Touji Souda, who could either be a god or a devil.

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Because his dad can tell by reading his face, Rei lets slip that Kyouko isn’t really staying over at his place all the time, and she derides Rei as a snitch under the bridge.

In a 3G first, the Kawamoto sisters finally see Rei with Kyouko, and their reactions are both priceless and true-to-character: Kyouko assumes Rei has found another home to ruin, Akari is polite and stays out of Rei’s business, and Momo is petrified of the Rei-bullying “witch.”

Hina is, well, pissed. So pissed, in fact, that she runs back to Rei and gives him a towering box of food to cheer him up—and all indications are she succeeds in the moment. She also makes sure to give Kyouko a withering middle-schooler stare before steaming off. Akari agrees “just a little bit” with her younger sister that it’s not fair that Rei should just take the “strong-willed woman’s” abuse.

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Kyouko is certainly cast as the Wolf to Red Riding Rei, but in the next segment, 3G turns that on its head, showing the far less outwardly confident and strong Kyouko. She basically stress-eats all of the food meant for Rei. She calls home to tell their dad where she is, but has to give the phone to Rei, because their dad doesn’t trust her.

Curling into (Rei’s) bed (again), Kyouko doesn’t know what to do with herself. She also doesn’t know why she chose Gotou, a man she can’t possibly bring home for Dad to see. In the night, Rei notices her checking her phone over and over, and the blue LCD light it creates, giving the impression the two of them are sinking into the bottom of the sea.

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Kyouko has crossed adulthood, but seems threatened by the only slightly-older Akari has achieved (in the brief, limited moment they crossed paths, that is). Rei is nearing adulthood, and at 18 will still be a second-year at school. Nikaidou has reached his rank, catching up to him, and is looking forward to proving his worthiness as a rival in an official match soon.

Rei puts it perfectly when he says he and Kyouko don’t know how to be proper siblings, nor can they be strangers, so they’re caught in between. Perhaps as they grow older and more mature they can learn and change. For now, Rei awaits the arrival of Spring, the first month of which I hear…comes in like a lion.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 16

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While it could be argued Hayashida-sensei got Rei in this hole by miscounting his absences, he gets resourceful in a bid to dig him out of it, including introducing Rei to the After School (Bunsen) Burners Club, a group of passionate nerds happy to help Rei out with science-y stuff. This was a lot of fun and engendered the most laughs; the mustachioed guy in particular was hilarious, somewhat Excalibur-like.

It’s a relief to the teacher to see Rei interacting and laughing with fellow students. The lesson he imparts upon Rei is that when he cannot overcome something alone, seek out someone to help; otherwise no one will ever seek him out.

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After a brief fake-out with a too-confident looking Gotou, we learn that Shimada was the victor in the third and final match, making him the challenger against the ethereal reigning champion Touji Souya. Gotou was prepared to give remarks on his loss, while Shimada is so spent from the exertion he can barely stand or talk. His spirits are buoyed when Rin asks if he can join his shogi workshop.

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Back at the Kawamoto’s, the girls and gramps are making special boxes for the girls festival and planning what kind of meal to prepare for the special occasion. Hina is frustrated that Rei hasn’t been by, and doesn’t understand why he’d deprive himself of food (and their company) for so long. Gramps understands, though; it’s a matter of pride. He’ll come back when he’s ready.

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The workshop is at Shimada’s house, a modest but gorgeous little home dramatically perched atop a hill in the oldest part of town. There’s a sense Rei has climbed a mountain to reach some kind of temple in order to aid him on his quest to enlightenment. In reality, he doesn’t spend enough time playing in non-competitive matches with peers, which is why Shimada was able to run roughshod over him.

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Shimada is glad to host three gung-ho shogi players in his home for the workshop, but once the three start getting defensive, digging in their heels and barking like petty feudal lords, the toll Shimada’s matches exacted upon his body are amplified, and he cuts the ‘shop short, blaming a stomachache.

Nevertheless, Rei is being exposed to different forms of play, with nothing on the line except his still-narrow personal view of shogi play. Nikaidou even follows him home, as their argument over use of certain pieces at a certain time inspires him to want to demonstrate to Rei what he’s on about on a shogi board.

Overall, this was a pleasant (if a bit thin-feeling) episode that shows some of the incremental steps Rei is taking towards…well, growing up, becoming both a better shogi player and a better man. Notably, there were no scary flashbacks (or scary Kyouko) to be had, but like Hina I too hope he’ll end his self-imposed exile from the Kawamotos soon.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 15

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Rei gets back to analyzing Kyouko, likening her to a glass with cracks that can never be fully filled. Rei blames himself and Kyouko’s and his dad for creating those cracks. Dad might’ve been the instigator, but Rei puts just as much weight in his role as object of favoritism, whether it was justified or not.

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The new wrinkle here is that Kyouko didn’t want Rei to go away, leaving her even more lonely. But he did. He felt he had to. Considering what Kyouko and her brother had to pay for Rei to be in the position he’s in, he felt it necessary to become an adult as soon as possible so he could “protect them”.

But leaving didn’t end Kyouko’s suffering, it only created a new void in her heart; a new crack. We also learn she first connected with Gotou because his wife is in the hospital, and the loneliness she perceives in him mirrors her own. I wonder if Kyouko ever expected Rei would up and leave the way he did – that he would challenge the status quo so forcefully, at such a young age.

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But leave and challenge it he did…and he failed, and got humiliated, and had his whole world turned upside down. And you know what? Even Grandpa Kawamoto knows (from experience) that failure is good; failure is necessary. No one ever knows that when it’s happening, because it feels terrible, as losing to Gotou in the first of three final matches feels to Shimada.

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Rei already shows some growth by ceasing his skulking and going back to the shogi hall to watch Shimada and Gotou in action with his colleagues. Unfortunately, due to a clerical error by Hayashida-sensei, Rei finds himself two attendance days in the red and heaps of schoolwork to do in order to prevent repeating the grade. Again, he faces potential humiliation and failure, but it will ultimately make him a better person.

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Shimada regathers himself and expends a great deal of his charisma in the second match, in which he manages to defeat Gotou and bring the series even. Afterwards Shimada walks with Nikaidou, who tells him why he wanted him to kick Rei’s ass so soundly.

Nikaidou’s many victories against uninspiring opponents who clearly didn’t work as hard as he did left him “reduced to a lump of ego”, with a head to match. That big head was split in two when he faced off against Rei, but Rei also pulled him out of the dirt and offered him water in the searing heat. Rei saved him, and he repaid the favor with Shimada’s help.

In an interesting merging of the two plot lines, Shimada spots Kyouko yelling over being rejected once more by Gotou on his way home. Seing the young, beautiful woman so strongly affected by the far older Gotou serves as another means of indirect psychological warfare (to go along with Gotou’s impressive arsenal of the direct kind).

But Shimada quickly snaps out of it: it’s just another momentary humiliation; another fleeting failure; either of which will only serve to make him stronger. So too will Rei grow stronger from such things. Now, Shimada, for the love of God: beat that pompous gangster!

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3-gatsu no Lion – 14

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3GL gets back on track by bringing Rei and Shimada’s match to an end, and I realize the match was supposed to start out boring at the beginning last week, to reflect how little of it Rei thought. Shimada was only a hurdle to leap over on the way to teaching Gotou a lesson.

How wrong Rei was: Shimada wasn’t an opponent to toss aside with half-assed preparation. Rei totally misjudged his level and got totally destroyed. Finding out how early in the match he was toast (far earlier than he realized when playing) only pours gas on the fire.

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He runs off like someone rejected by their crush, thinking he’s lost everything. He loads up on sleep, gets depressed and dehydrated, and even starts to think of other ways to make his way in the world besides shogi (which is tough when one is only seventeen). Rei had taken on the trappings of adulthood without having the experiences necessary to become one.

But as Shimada and Smith say, this happens to everyone, in one way or another. You’re young, you feel invincible, then you’re struck down and never saw it coming, and think It’s All Over. Heck, it sounds a lot like one’s first rejection or breakup.

But such defeats are necessary and vital to growth, which is probably why Nikaidou asked Shimada to “crack [Rei’s] head in two.” Rei needed a jolt like this, because more defeats will come in life and he needs to learn how to deal with them.

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Rei tries to find some solace at school, but it’s just as unapproachable and incompatible to him as ever. Again, the only one he talks with is Hayashida-sensei, making him one of the least social high school anime characters (who isn’t just a shut-in) in recent memory.

Hayashida also wants to impress upon Rei the fact that if he’s “over-capacity”, and it certainly looks like he is, there’s no shame in stepping back from those adult trappings, moving back home, and having at least some of the things currently overloading his life be taken care of.

Additionally, Hayashida suggests Rei join Shimada’s workshop (of which Nikaido is also a member), as learning from someone who beat you (especially so badly) is a great opportunity.

Rei has to get past his anger with Shimada for getting beaten, his uneasiness with being back home, and of course, his own obsessive insistence on not running. Doing these things isn’t running, it’s learning and growing.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 10

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Another week, another weak opponent with a sad story Rei must face, another dose of caustic venom from Kyoko. Remembering back to a Christmas where Kyoko’s dad gave him a shogi set instead of her, Rei admits he wants to hear the poison from Kyoko.

He must believe on some unconscious level that he deserves punishment for the pain he caused her. Kyoko is all too happy to oblige, but her shtick is getting a little old, and not just with me.

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Predictably, Rei defeats Mr. Yasui. It doesn’t even take that long. He can tell Yasui is trying his best to bring a victory home to his daughter on the last Christmas before his divorce. But Rei sees Yasui’s mistakes before he does.

That means he can see more moves ahead, which means Yasui never had a chance. Throughout the game, Rei feels like he’s walking on eggshells around the faintly alcohol-scented ol’ bastard, and doesn’t feel particularly good about dispatching him so easily.

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When Yasui slinks away without the bag containing a gift for his daughter, Rei tries to be a nice guy and gets the bag back to him. Yasui pretends it isn’t his at first, but Rei presses the issue and Yasui angrily snatches it away before continuing off, probably to get drunk.

All the while, I was thinking about how unwise it was for Rei to involve himself in the personal lives of the sadsack opponents he beats. They’re not your problem, dude. You gotta focus on winning matches so you can eat and pay the bills.

Turns out…he listened!

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WRONG, Trump, WRONG! Not everything is Rei’s fault! It’s his opponents’ faults they lost, because they weren’t good enough to beat him. He realizes there’s a “beast” inside of him, fighting for his survival, that will elicit no mercy once the battle has begun.

No matter how he became a shogi player, the fact of the matter is, he’s a Shogi Player, and a damn good one. He’s sick of feeling like shit for beating people…and allowing Kyoko to keep that river of shit flowing. Could this be a turning point?

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3-gatsu no Lion – 09

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Rei isn’t feeling great about having to bring down a guy who’s been playing more than twice as long as he’s been alive, and that feeling doesn’t improve when he spots his opponent, Matsunaga, praying at a local shrine and acting very erratic.

The old man’s inscrutability translates to his shogi game, which Rei can’t quite suss out, even to the point he wonders if Matsunaga is placing pieces randomly. He also starts to doubt if his opponent’s stress is real or all an act. Neither can we; his opaqueness makes for some entertaining human observation.

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When the match is over, and Rei wins, Matsunaga nearly falls down some stairs (the same stairs Rei was going to use to sneak away), and ends up treating the old man to a sumptuous feast and more than he can drink. Turns out Rei is a nice guy like Kyouko said, because he doesn’t leave the man’s side as long as he’s not certain he’ll be okay.

But he will be okay. The liquor greases the hinges of the door to Matsunaga’s heart, and he opens up to us and Rei. Rei may not be able to fathom forty years of shogi, but hearing the old man speak of the addictive elation of victory despite the bitterness of defeat (and he’s suffered a lot more defeats than Rei), he’s able to finally relate. Those are the same things he feels.

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Even if Rei claims to hate shogi, and Matsunaga can’t answer the question of whether he likes it, the fact of the matter is, they are both shogi players. So when Kyouko calls to gloat over Rei having to “strangle an old dog”, Rei proudly announces that Matsunaga will, in fact, not be retiring from shogi after all.

Rather than serve as a young, beautiful grim reaper for the old man, Rei, their match, and the night that followed, made him reconsider quitting the game, even after Rei beat him (that, and he really doesn’t want to do house chores).

I honestly didn’t know what to expect from Matsunaga this week, as I’m sure Rei didn’t. But I was pleasantly surprised by the swiftness with which his character was fleshed out. This week was a sprawling profile of the guy, from his knowledge of Fukushima history to the drive to play not snuffed out by Rei. Sorry Kyouko – no win for you!

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Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 10

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This week marks the first time I can remember Isshiki or Eizen speaking this season, and it’s ultimately some exposition about how Eizen recruited Mimasaka to take down Souma. He failed, partly due to underestimating Souma’s rare ability to face down and work through his inadequacies without lowering his expectations.

By the end of Souma’s dish presentation, it wasn’t looking good, as his saury seemed a not insignificant number of notches below Hayama and Ryo’s. But he was about to reveal his trump card: seasoned soy milk, which turns the dish into a rich porridge where glutamic and inosinic acid play. Yum.

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The Chairman bares his chest (WWE-style); Leonora bares her eloquence (Lifetime-style), and all of a sudden, it’s looking like all three are in the running for the win. Their flavors were on par, while Souma’s exceptional creativity largely made up for the others’ superior ability to choose the best saury.

Being all but tied in so many ways, the difference maker was going to be the dish that best represented the chef who made it, the dish only that chef coule make; their specialty. And the winner is…

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Hayama. Hayama Akira. Akira, meaning “bright, intelligent, and clear.” He was a diamond in the roughest of roughs, abandoned in a slum. It was not only Jun’s compassion for helping one in need, but her belief Hayama’s sense of smell would “change the world”, much in the same way some veteran pilot would pluck a newbie out of humble beginning and upon the highest stage in the galaxy. Jun facilitated this, serving both as best friend, mentor, and surrogate mother.

The flashback is a bit schmaltzy at times, but it mostly works, even if the missing pieces to Hayama’s backstory come a bit late in the game, without time to really let them simmer (or age) like the ingredients in the final. It also let me feel okay about Hayama’s win over Souma. He earned it; he deserved it. And his rare showing of emotion, including giving an elated Jun a big ol’ hug (flustering the dickens out of her) was a great moment.

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By winning, Hayama Akira sits in the second position in their class’s ranking, just below Erina. But he won’t be alone and isolated up there, as Souma and Ryo stay in his orbit, stung by the defeat eager to taste the winning dish and compare it with their own.

The three are on the cusp of becoming friends (or at least colleagues) who respect each other and went through culinary hell together. They are all diamonds who will polish each other by smashing into one another, as Leonora eloquently puts it (with her bad Japanese).

While saying this, we see Alice’s head lying in her lap; she’s no doubt nearly as dejected as Ryo by his loss; while Erina watches Souma’s dorm clique heading off to celebrate from her lonely limo high above them. Souma’s dad also calls him, coming away glad Souma found a peer who could beat him; finding the motivation to keep improving.

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With the Autumn Elections finally over, the last act of the episode is a bridge between that ordeal and the next: the forebodingly-named Stagiaire, in which the first years are tossed out of the academy for practical training, presumably in real restaurants, serving real customers.

Before being warned about this by Jun, Souma and Ryo are all up in Jun and Hayama’s lab, which irritates him but makes her very happy, because it means despite his terrifying, monstrous talent, he’s still able to connect with others.

One of the essential elements of Totsuki Academy is simply proximity: that of young chefs to one another, gleaning new insights on cooking from each other. The Staigaire will affect that proximity, but expose the students to new stimuli aimed at sharpening their skills and opening their minds even further. Should be fun!

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