Tsuki ga Kirei – 11

Sooo…this episode was just about perfect, which doesn’t really surprise me at this point. Kotarou and Akane are on splendid terms, so Kotarou faces two new conflicts this week, which prove more complex and challenging than winning Akane’s heart. Gaining the approval of his parents, and being accepted into Koumei.

We know Akane’s grades are great and her family is the reason she’s changing schools, so there’s not much tension on her end; just whether or not Kotarou will like her hand-knit scarf (which…DUH of course he will).  So instead we delve deep into Kotarou’s small, quiet family, and navigate the treacherous waters with him.

Like Kotarou and Akane’s romance, Kotarou’s problems with his folks are portrayed with a heightened sense of realism and equilibrium. His mom may sound worse than nails on a chalkboard when nagging Kotarou, but she’s only nagging because she cares so fiercely about her son’s future.

That being said, I don’t decry Kotarou pushing back against the path she’s already laid out in her head for him. It is HIS future, after all. But just as Kotarou was initially so bad at communicating his feelings (or anything else) with Akane, he’s equally bad at explaining why he’s so hellbent on attending Koumei.

Hell, he never even seems to try, which works against him early on as his mother quickly dismisses his intention to follow a “girl he likes” as teenage caprice. We know better—Kotarou near-as-makes-no-difference loves Akane, and she loves him, but his folks have no choice but to work with the information they have, which is scanty.

Rather than hearing it from him, Kotarou’s mother comes to gather more information on her own, as she watches her son furiously studying late into the night. She can tell he’s working hard for something he believes in, so obviously she’s not going to come in and crush his dreams by forcing him into a municipal school. Instead, she adopts a wait-and-see approach, putting her faith in her son by letting him hold the keys to his future.

The constant studying wears Kotarou down, and his mock exams are, uh, nothing special, so it’s great to see Akane spearhead a Christmas meetup that serves as a much-needed break for both of them, as well as an opportunity to exchange presents.

It’s lovely to watch the couple so comfortable and warm around each other, especially the lack of hesitation when they lean in for another kiss. You really get the feeling, both here and after all we’ve seen, that this isn’t mere puppy love; these kids have a future together…even if they don’t end up in the same school.

One night, Kotarou’s father lays it out: they’ll let him apply for Koumei, but if he fails, he’s going to a public school. Kotarou accepts the fair conditions, then stands slack-jawed when his dad tells him when his homeroom teacher told his mom Koumei wasn’t a realistic choice for Kotarou, she fought back, leading to an awesome thunderbolt of a quintessential Dad Line: “She can be naggy, but…Well, there you have it.”

Sure enough, when heading downstairs at 1 am for a snack, Kotarou finds his mother there, making some fresh onigiri; forming the balls with love, care, and gentleness before heading off to bed. His mom is no longer an impediment to his dreams of attending school with Akane. She never was. She saw the effort he was putting in, and decided to support and even fight for him.

The morning of his big, decisive exam—the last true impediment to his happiness (though not really since as I said their love seems likely to endure the lengthy but non-permanent distance)—both Kotarou’s mom and dad are up to make sure he has everything he needs, to wish him luck, and to see him off. And Kotarou does something he hadn’t done all episode, but sorely needed to do: he thanks his mom.

These family interactions are so understated and relatable, and really form a nice little arc within the episode as understanding is achieved between the parties and the conflict is revealed only as a measure of concern. Kotarou puts in the work to assure them they needn’t worry, and they show him that they are and always will be on his side.

Now he just needs to pass that goddamn exam!

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 21

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As expected, Gjallarhorn is coming. More specifically, Carta is coming. The Issue family is the Top Dog of the Seven Stars, and she’s coming in force to restore her pride and that of her fleet. Orga’s plan is to help get Makanai and Kudelia to parliament. Kudelia calls upon Montag for transport and he obeys, happy to be of help in the shadows.

But all this is preceded by a rare “Back on Mars” scene, specifically Biscuit’s sisters waiting for his return from Earth. As I saw the place and family he wanted to get back to as soon as possible (which isn’t as soon as he’d like, hence deferring to Orga), I didn’t know it was a bad omen.

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“We’ll worry about the future after we leave here,” says Mika. In the meantime, they’ll crush whoever’s in their way of that future. The target has had to move by necessity, and Biscuits okay with that. “You’d never complain about my reckless ideas,” Orga says to Biscuit in a dark mess hall. “I did complain.

You just weren’t listening.” And so it is with Biscuit’s many death flags early in this episode. They were clear to see, but like Orga, my eyes were focused elsewhere, on all the other issues at hand, like resisting Carta Issue’s imminent assault.

We even see a potential passing of the torch from Biscuit to Merribit, as she visits Orga and assures him he’ll have “plenty of chances” to tell Biscuit how much he needs him and wants him to stay in Tekkadan. Could the foreboding be any more obvious?

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Alas, like Orga, I wasn’t listening, partly because I didn’t want the worst to happen. Biscuit, even with his wavering resolve, was too important to Tekkadan’s survival. And when Carta brings the pain from land air and sea (and one naval captain is the older brother of Orlis, Tekkadan’s first kill), the focus moves from the characters to the latest battle they must fight.

Carta’s got the numbers, but she was born a few centuries too late. Tekkadan doesn’t cut her any slack for her flashy, chivalrous, but ultimately dubious tactics, like clumping her Blonde Squadron and rushing straight ahead, but not before posing and announcing how great they are. I chuckled when a shirtless, impatient Akihito interrupted her sublime little procession by blasting one of her men.

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That being said, Carta has a lot of steel to throw at Tekkadan, and throw she does. It’s just that most of it gets wasted with terrible gameplan that doesn’t try to poke or prod at Tekkadan’s defense, allowing them to exploit a great number of traps and misdirection.

Carta and her men are also not accustomed to fighting guerrillas like Tekkadan, and the uncouth rough-and-tumble melee combat throws them off balance. Meanwhile, thanks to Biscuit’s strategizing, Carta attacked the wrong side of the island in her desire to achieve her mission objective of capturing Kudelia and Makanai.

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When her men get to Makanai’s residence, only fire and smoke greets them, and in the confusion their targets slip away to the landing area where Tekkadan commandeers their own landing craft. Tekkadan knew exactly what their enemy was after and how they’d go about trying to get it.

Carta didn’t know or care what her enemy was up to or how it would fight, and simply thought everything would work out due to sheer brute force and “fortuitousness.” She thought wrong.

Even so, Carta is in the right place at the right time (and Mika is occupied) at one crucial moment when Orga’s Biscuit-piloted Mobile Worker is exposed. Carta is able to slip away and slash it, and Biscuit is able to warn Orga to let go and be thrown from the worker just in time.

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When Mika sees the worker tumble, he goes into a kind of controlled berserk mode, defeating both the suits hounding him and then beating Carta down (though not killing her in a murderous rage, hence the “controlled”). But the damage is done, and the flags this time didn’t lie: Biscuit is crushed by the worker, and due to blown-out ears, isn’t able to hear Orga’s cries.

Biscuit doesn’t want to die there and then, but he can’t overcome the damage done to his flesh and blood. “We will make Tekkadan…” are his final words to a devastated Orga…not “I told you this would happen.” The “we” and “Tekkadan” suggest Biscuit wanted Orga to know it he was with him and with Tekkadan until the end. That his death wasn’t Orga’s fault. Orga can’t just fall into a pit of regret and despair after all; there are a lot more people depending on him to lead their search for a future.

This episode returned to the Mars-based first ED, which was a nice move. Now I finally understand what the corn at the very end is about. It represents the quiet, peaceful life of farming with his sisters Biscuit was fighting for until the end, but could not quite reach. But for everyone else, the struggle continues.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 20

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Tekkadan did it: they finally got Kudelia Aina Bernstein safely to Earth. The inescapable question is, What now? All they know for certain is that they’re only safe for the time being; Gjallarhorn has their position and it’s only a matter of time before they strike.

This episode provides a breather from last week’s intense (and awesome) battle, giving various characters a chance to consider their options, and determine whether moving forward is the answer, or if returning home is the right way to go.

A lot of the decisions by many of those characters has thus far been informed by those of their brothers (giving this episode its title) and this is no different…until the positions of those brothers comes into conflict.

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Gaelio has evolved greatly from the haughty, simpering aristocrat soldier of yore. He got swept up in Ein’s vendetta by giving him an arena to exact revenge, but that failed, Ein’s life hangs by a thread, and Gaelio feels responsible.

The old Gaelio actually comes out when the doctors recommend the only course is to give Ein the Alaya-Vijnana system, something Gaelio was brought up to dispise as less-than-human. He sees Ein as a brother now, and doesn’t want to make him a monster.

It takes the desperation of Ein’s situation, and counsel from an out-of-mask McGillis to start to sway Gaelio towards consent to Ein’s A-V operation. As McGillis says, the hatred and mistrust of tech like A-V (or even prostheses) were a calculated part of Gjallarhorn training, since its original mission was to avoid another Calamity War.

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Ein’s only hope is a relic form that war Earth would rather forget. But Tekkadan has been out there using it all along. While Gaelio must consider a practice the effects of which are more widespread in Mars, the Martians of Tekkadan have to get used to something a lot less intense: live fish.

Before meeting the illustrious Makanai, he gives them a big load of the flounder (or sole) which the orphans distrust almost as much as Gaelio mistrusts the A-V. Both are strange and alien, and elicit disgust. The food they’re used to is awful by Earth standards, but to them, it’s just food, and fresh fish is an aberration.  But Atra gets over that, and with the Turbine girls, pulls up her sleeves and prepares a meal…but we never see Mika take a bite.

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When the meeting with Makanai arrives…it’s a little disappointing. First, the good news: they’re in Oceanian territory, safe from Gjallarhorn for the time being. Peaceful progress has been made in the Dorts thanks to Kudelia’s efforts. Because that has led to lower productivity in the Dorts, Oceania is benefiting by filling the shortfall, giving Oceania greater incentive to protect Tekkadan, who helped make it possible.

Now the bad: Makanai has been exiled from Arbrau, and currently has no real power. He shares Kudelia’s desire for talks on Martian half-metal deregulation, but first he needs an escort back to Arbrau for an upcoming session of parliament in preparation for a new election. Makanai’s rival, Henri Fleurs, has Gjallarhorn support, which means if Tekkadan sides with Makanai, Gjallarhorn will have yet another reason to take them out.

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And all this, when Orga admits to Naze that despite all they’ve managed to accomplish, Tekkadan are still “nobodies” without firm ground to stand on. Naze tells Orga he has a wide berth when it comes to deciding what to do next; he’s already fulfilled his debt to McMurdo. So it’s Orga’s show, and never before has he needed the support of his right-hand-man Biscuit. (Notice how Biscuit is seated on Orga’s left above).

The problem is, while Orga believes their best shot at a prosperous future is to help Makanai, Biscuit disagrees. He just received a posthumous communication from Savarin, telling him to choose the life he wishes to lead. Whether it’s loud and dangerous or quiet and calm, what’s important is that Biscuit chooses.

Biscuit still has family to protect, be it his sisters back home or his little brothers in Tekkadan. And he suspects a lot of Tekkadan’s success has simply been due to luck. So when Orga comes to him wanting to barrel forward, with the sea in front of them, Biscuit can’t help but think about how his brother, armed with the best intentions, got swept into the undertow, couldn’t get out, and drowned.

Orga is upset with Biscuit’s no, but understands it a lot more when he hears about Savarin’s message. As Merribit comments on Orga’s long-time dependence on Biscuit’s agreement to this point, Yukinojou tells Biscuit it wasn’t luck that got them this far, it was the fact they were all together.

Orga isn’t rushing ahead without fear or reason. He is thinking about the future Biscuit wants now. They only disagree on the timing and the path.

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Kudelia knows the only way is forward, and prays to Fumitan to give her the strength to do so. That strength enters on cue in the form of Atra and Mika with some food; Kudelia hasn’t been eating. Just as Orga draws strength and confidence in Biscuit, Mika, Naze, and others, Kudelia knows she can’t go anywhere without the strength lent to her from Atra, Mika, and Fumitan’s memory. Brothers and sisters.

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Speaking of sisters, I’m pleased to report we haven’t seen the last of Carta Issue (thought it was pretty evident we were going to get more than just that one confrontation with her). With her pride and the pride of her fleet on the line, she’s coming after Tekkadan harder than ever. Thanks to her connections, she’s been given clearance to enter Oceanian jurisdiction, meaning the “time being”

Tekkadan was safe from Gjallarhorn turned out to be no more than a couple days. While I totally understand Biscuits desire to go home, considering the myriad dangers that surround them no matter what they choose to do, Orga’s plan is the one with the greatest reward. And thanks to the help of the Turbine girls, they’ll have a few more tricks up their sleeve with new Earth-optimized suit mods.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 24 (Fin)

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Hannah (Braverade): Here we are: the final dish, which after watching I considered deserved a spot among the best of the series, for various reasons, but most notably because it didn’t try to do too much. With only two challengers left, the show could really focus in depth on their two dishes and get down to the delicious culinary details. In effect, this was like an informal Shokugeki: Hayama and Souma going at it with everything they’ve got.

Zane (sesameacrylic): A delicious final ep to be sure, Han! Glad to be contributing for this final episode of a show I handed off to you to to my heavier Summer workload, though I still watched it along with you. And I agree that while it’s no episode 12 or 14, this episode is indeed required watching that gets at the essence of the show: smart culinary commentary backing up a good old-fashioned shonen-style duel with food instead of weapons.

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Hannah (Braverade): In the process of dueling, Souma, and for that manner many other characters, not only developed their characters further through their processes, influences, and innovations, but changed the minds of their peers in the process, or at least gave them a better understanding of who he/they are.

Zane (sesameacrylic): That’s quite a mouthful there, but I think I see what you’re getting at. Take Erina. She’s looked down on Souma all this time—literally, since she’s in the luxury box for this competition, above the fray and all—but this last dish, and the manner in which Souma came upon it, not through perfection but failure, learning from each and every loss, basically forced Erina to, at the very least, kinda-sorta acknowledge him.

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Hannah (Braverade): Exactly. They don’t even meet in this episode, but Erina can’t dismiss the five judges’ reactions to Souma’s dish, nor the final score, which is only one point below spice expert Hayama (who clearly expected to win running away, not by a squeaker) and two points below her own cousin Alice.

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Zane (sesameacrylic): The similar unveiling of the two dishes as “fragrance bombs” was pretty clever, and really expressed the impact that “contained” spiced dishes make on the nose. Even cleverer was the fact the bombs worked in different ways, as did the impact of the two dishes. Hayama’s was like a piercing spear, but Souma’s was more like hit combos from a mixed martial artist.

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Hannah (Braverade): The show wisely avoided letting the hero Win It All. Rather, this is another failure for Souma, who wanted to win but didn’t. But failures have driven him to become a better chef, and this one will be no different. And what a close loss it was. Setting aside the one-point difference, the scoring shows that two judges clearly liked Hayama’s dish more while the other three were firmly in Souma’s corner.

The fact that had this been an official shokugeki, Souma would have won 3-2, and the resulting heated argument among the judges, proves that Souma was even closer to winning that the one-point difference indicates on its face.

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Zane (sesameacrylic): For all the excitement and delectableness of the final two candidates, the episode still manages to save plenty of time for a nice epilogue. I’ve always liked when the show simply lets the characters have fun and blow off steam after a big battle, as they do here with a party congratulating not only Souma and Megumi, but Marui and Takumi. The Aldini brothers are there, and so is Nikumi, showing that those who enter Souma’s orbit don’t easily leave it.

Hannah (Braverade): Hojo admitting she misjudged Megumi was also a nice little moment. Hojo wasn’t the deepest character, but I appreciated that the show didn’t forget about There’s also an interesting tension between those at the Polar Star party and those who aren’t: Alice, Ryo and Hisako aren’t in that social circle, and neither is Hayama, who is content to carry a piss-drunk Jun, his savior, mentor, and muse, to bed.

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Zane (sesameacrylic): The show also smartly ends with some nice Souma/Megumi moments. Souma tells her “I like your cooking” the same way you’d confess to someone, and Megumi reacts appropriately. Then the show closes with a callback to the first episode when Souma subjected Hinako to peanut butter calamari. This time he uses yogurt, which is even dirtier looking when Megumi’s disgust is visualized as softcore tentporn.

Hannah (Braverade): Fortunately, this show had a lot more to offer than hilariously wrong foodgasm visualizations. Like Souma’s curry risotto omelette rice, it leaves me wanting more, like to know who will ultimately win the autumn elections. I suspect this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Food Wars.

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