Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 18 – INFINHONEY WAR

SPOILER WARNING: This review contains *major* spoilers for the Marvel film Avengers: Infinity War. This serves as a warning not to read on if you have not seen it yet and do not wish to be spoiled. Furthermore, there are a number of references to the MCU herein, so if you don’t know nothing about (or hate) any of that stuff, you have my apologies.

Let me make some comparisons. If Totsuki is the universe, Nakiri Azami is Thanos. Thanos wants to cleave away all of what he deems to be unnecessary excess form the universe, just as Azami wants to do the same with the academy. In both cases their end product will be something harmonious and sustainable only they had the will to make possible, and are convinced that once they’re done the universe (and academy) will be grateful for their efforts.

Polar Star and its allies represent the Avengers. However noble Thanos/Azami believe themselves or their efforts to be, they are, on a human scale, amoral and must be opposed. I won’t get bogged down into which chef is which Avenger, but suffice it to say that Azami has been their greatest foe to date, and this week they take their heaviest losses, which will make an already uphill battle feel…well, even more uphill.

Hayama Akira isn’t trying to save anybody other than Shiomi Jun and the research lab they built together, and decided the best way to do that was to accept and join Azami’s Central regime. But even Jun herself cannot support his decision. In joining Central he creates a rift, and for the first time, she isn’t there to watch him from the sidelines.

At first, it doesn’t seem like that matters. Soue, Cilla and Berta can tell Akira’s chicken-fried bear is superior to Souma’s dish before it even touches their lips, and upon finally digging in, Soue has a full-blown Explosion (the family history of which is hilariously explained by Gin). The sisters try in vain to identify all of the chemical reactions going on, but are overcome by their foodgasms.

Akira’s bear and dipping sauce combine to form a one-two punch to put the metaphorically boxing Souma on the ropes, and creating another metaphor: that of an impenetrable fortress of flavor mastery. The only problem is, Akira locked himself in that fortress alone.

It isn’t over yet, because the judges still have to try Souma’s dipping sauce (in an interesting twist, considering you’d think they’d have finished the first dish before starting Akira’s, and not mixed them in their palates). To everyone’s amazement, Souma’s sauce…is just plain better, do in large part to his use of a very specific kind of honey.

Suoe’s reaction is even stronger, evolving from “The Explosion” to “The Gift”, in which his spontaneous disrobing expands in waves to the sisters (though in the very next scene their clothes are back on…continuity!) With Akira’s superior bear and Souma’s superior sauce, the sisters split their votes, leaving Suoe to break the 1-1 tie.

It’s here where I’ll break out another Avengers metaphor and compare Souma to Tony Stark. Sure, he’s no monetary billionaire, but he has an embarrassment of human riches at his disposal, along with Hokkaido’s vast natural bounty. Like Tony, his ambition to improve his skills and his drive to never stop tinkering is virtually boundless. It has to be; just as Tony has no innate superpowers, Souma lacks a superhuman sense of taste or smell.

Souma ran Kuga’s Chinese RS battalion ragged darting from mountain to valley to stream and back again, collecting every flavor in the bear’s habitat that could be exploited to improve the dish even one tiny amount. He approached his culinary testing with a passion Akira simply didn’t match, because Akira was so focused on protecting Jun that he was relegated to testing without her insights or anyone else’s.

While Souma caught up with him, Akira actually backtracked; as delicious as his bear is, it can’t match the passion that went into his Autumn Elections-winning dish. And he knows it. Moreover, he sought perfection and balance in his dish, but gave no thought to who it was for, while Souma’s was painstakingly crafted specifically for Akira to taste it and say it was delicious.

Jun arrives on cue to give Akira a well-deserved slap across the face (Guardian of the Year Jun, everyone!) and tell him continuing the research lab doesn’t matter to her anymore. All she wants is for Akira to keep having fun cooking with kids his own age…because he is still a kid, after all.

Her sentiments hit Akira hard, and his eyes go glassy as a result. Suoe casts the deciding vote naming Souma the victor, Souma says his “Glad you enjoyed it” catchphrase, and we move on to whatever is next. Erina arrives, short of breath and mussed of hair, to learn to her great relief, that Souma has survived his latest trial.

But Jun’s wish for Akira to cook with his friends hits a snag. As a result of losing to Souma, Azami sends his aide Ebony Maw Sean Aida to inform him he’s been summarily expelled. Not only that, the rebellion has been decimated: Hisako, Ryo, Nikumi, Asami, Shun, Zenji, Daigo, Shiouji, Ryouko, Yuuki, and Alice…are all expelled.

That’s a purge to rival (or exceed) the effects of The Snap on the Avengers, and leaves you in a similar defeated mood, completely overshadowing Souma’s momentous achievement of finally beating Akira.

Megumi and Tekumi weren’t in the montage, nor were lesser potential rebels in Nao, Miyoko, Subaru, etc. But how in the hell are Souma, Erina, and whoever else managed to survive the massacre going to proceed? Something tells me Carol Danvers’ cooking skills aren’t gonna cut it…

Akiba’s Trip The Animation – 03

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Well, I wasn’t expecting that – an episode of Akiba’s Trip outscoring a KonoSuba. Where this week’s Kono felt listless and scraping the barrel, Akiba’s Trip had a manic energy to it (along with an idol group called Manias) as it ditched the bugged ones story for a straight-up exploration of various kinds of obsessions, which can all to easily be taken up to 11 in a place like Akiba.

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It starts, innocently enough, with Tamotsu catching a moment of an idol concert Nikawa is watching, and like a diamond arrow, sends him into the soaring space of fandom. His obsession with the idol (who just comically phones it in) in all possible media frustrates Mayo, whose patrol plans with Tamotsu are completely overrun by his various idol-worshipping activities. That, in turn, leads Mayo to stress eat over at Carl’s Jr. (tacky product placement FTL).

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At some point, Tamotsu’s obsession shifts from merely consuming idoltry to really getting down into the nitty-gritty of audio, maxing out his GonzoCard many times over with impulsive purchases of increasingly dubious equipment, only to literally bowl his roommates over with his very expensive realization that it’s better just to hear the idol in person.

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Then things shift to the girls, who get swept up by a famous former-idol, now super/hyper/mega-whatever producer who calls the trio MANIAS and books them for numerous photo shoots in increasingly revealing outfits and increasingly lecherous photographers.

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Eventually, things get so bad Arisa is being casually asked to lie in bed and take off her top, but when Mayo and Nikawa hold her back, the producer and photographer reveal their true selves as Bugged Ones. Just like that, the episode snaps back into what the show is about, having itself gotten swept up in the stories of its characters getting obsessed with things.

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Arisa and Mayo fight the Bugged Ones, and Tamotsu joins in since he started taking every possible part-time or temp job he can to pay his debts, the constant cycle of odd jobs becoming its own obsession. Being the producer’s part-time janitor pays off, as he’s able to save his sister.

The recovered famous producer then quickly hooks up the trio for a little idol concert event that looks the business (and is sung by the three lead seiyuu, performing as “Headphones”, their group from Sore ga Seiyuu). 

They only perform in front of a handful of people, but that’s fine with Mayo, who seems to like the attention she gets from Tamotsu, who ends up with a new idol group to, well, idolize. Will all of this be forgotten next week? Probably. Was it still not just fun, but a shitload of fun? Absolutely.

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Akiba’s Trip The Animation – 02

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This week Tomatsu gets oriented in his new role as Mayo’s underling, and his new, more powerful form as an elite hazoku. He comes up with the name “Electric Mayonnaise & Friends”, the first friend being Arisa, who is game for some bugged one-hunting.

Their target this week is a disgruntled replica gun and military supply store manager-turned-hazoku, who reminded me of Orange from the old run-and-gun game Gunstar Heroes. He has ammo that can tear clothes away, which turns out to be just as bad for Tamotsu and Mayo as the bad guys, since they’re the same basic entities (albeit with opposing ideals).

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The fact that a defeated Hazoku doesn’t return to being a normal human, but simply evaporates, is revealed to Tamotsu after Orange is brought down, creating new, fresh stakes for him. Arisa isn’t a Hazoku, just really really strong; I wonder if there’s more to her than meets the eye (even though she reveals quite a bit throughout the episode).

Akiba’s Trip continues to be inoffensively competent and reasonably fun. But KonoSuba is a tough act to follow, exposing this show’s lack of narrative depth. That being said, the characters have distinct (if broad) personalities and good chemistry, so I find myself looking forward to the next leg in Akiba’s Trip.

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Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 22

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After a tense multi-episode battle with Archer, Shirou, Saber and Rin get a much-deserved respite back home, which almost seems like a preview of sorts for the “household of three” domestic arrangement that represents the ideal ending for these three once the war is over.

But it’s far from a sure thing, as there’s still Gilgamesh/Archer and his Shinji Grail to deal with. Rin determines that it’s all going down at Ryuudou Temple, so after a meal (gotta feed the brain), they determine the best course of action.

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There’s an interesting dance between the three in Shirou’s sprawling manse, as he happens to not be around while Rin is conferring with her servant, while Saber happens to not be around when Shirou goes to Rin’s room, where she tells him how they’re going to get over his lack of mana (and thus inability to maintain a reality bubble like Archer): she’s going to transfer her magic crest to him, giving him all the mana he’ll need to face Gilgy.

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This is treated as very intimate act, but not too intimate. While it’s certainly the hottest thing these two have done together (on this particular show, that is), things stay tasteful…if a bit dull and underwhelming.

Considering the affection these two have for each other, everything they’ve been through, and the fact they may not come back from their next fight, part of me wanted a little more amorousness.

Yet their contact never comes close to veering into the territory of sex, with Rin only removing her iconic turtleneck and Shirou taking off his shirt, with the understanding that more efficient “exchange of body heat” helps the process. Whatever you say, show.

While the transfer takes place, Shirou has some trippy dreams about being amongst jellyfish-style marine animals in the sea, to a scene of a kid practicing the high jump over and over as a young Rin watches.

I gathered that the jumping kid was him, and this was an actual memory Rin cherishes, and bristles when Shirou brings it up, because she doesn’t have an intimate memory of his to lord over him.

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When they’re all done, Shirou goes out to see Saber, who was thankfully not peeking through the window to see what was going on or anything silly like that. Shirou is resolved to take care of Gilgamesh and come back home safe and sound, but Saber seems more tentative about that last part.

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So this was the calm before the storm—which is brewing menacingly on the other side of town—but a warm and enjoyable one. Again, I don’t particularly care about Gilgamesh’s ideals or anything; he’s just an arrogant Bad Guy who needs to be put in his place. Here’s hoping our Power Triangle can make it happen.

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