Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 24 – Environmental Factors

Not surprisingly, Kinokuni Nene’s dish is a sublime expression of the Edo-style soba tradition coursing through her veins. Creating a dish composed of two distinct light delicate flavors is no mean feat, but Nene pulls it off effortlessly, almost automatically. As if we didn’t know already, Souma is facing an uphill battle.

Souma also has to worry about the judges getting too stuffed on Nene’s soba. The noodles and sakura shrimp tempura disappear so easily from their plates, they seem to create an infinite time loop. Nene may have an inferiority complex when it comes to Satoshi, but he never failed to bear witness to the immense amount of hard work and dedication Nene put into everything she did—not just cooking—while other kids her age played around.

Her “environmental factors”, i.e. her strict upbringing that demanded results and perfection, are why she’s in the Elite Ten, and why she thoroughly impressed three Priests of The Book. But Souma also has something he’s “sunk a lot of time into”, and he calls it “Yukihira-style Seared Soba”. And at first glance it looks…kinda tragic? Especially compared to the austere work of art that was Nene’s dish.

Of course, if an ugly dish tastes better than the good-looking one (not to mention beats it in exciting every other sense), it’s easy to overlook it’s…looks. While Nene used the purest form of buckwheat flower (ichibanko, which only uses the endosperm), Souma used sanbanko, a flour made up of parts very near the outer shell of the grain.

Sanbanko trades ideal mouthfeel for increased aromas, but in his quest to replicate the genre of instant noodles to gourmet stature, he leaned into that coarseness by crisping the noodles via stir-frying. Ichibanko’s delicate flavor would have been ruined, but the sanbanko noodles hold up.

Other bold touches include the generous use of duck, as well as a variety of seasoning spices to diversify the judges’ experience. While Nene’s soba let them travel through time to eat it over and over again, Souma’s seems to transport the judges back to an ideal moment in their lives: enjoying their friends’ company at a summer festival as fireworks blaze in the sky.

Nene is ultimately correct that she utilized all of her amassed knowledge and experience to create the very best Edo-style soba she could for the judges. BUT, it wasn’t the best dish FOR THE VENUE. The environment that matters most is the one in which the shokugeki is taking place, which grew colder and colder as the storm worsened outside.

As a result, the delicate aromas of her dish suffered, while Souma’s held up. Nene herself confirms this when she tastes her noodles and then Souma’s. Her soba is best enjoyed in a much more controlled environment. I believe this is the first instance in Food Wars anime of the ambient temperature of the shokugeki hall playing a factor in the judges’ decision. And I loved Alice conferring with Akira on the science of how Souma beat Nene.

One more environment that favored Souma is his upbringing in a busy diner. From a young age, he learned how to keep track of a lot of different things and dishes at once, because diners are places where the food is slung fast, eaten fast, and the customers turn over fast. Compare that to Nene’s restaurant, whose sophisticated clientele are willing to wait for the best possible meal.

Souma’s extra stamina and the speed with which he experiments and crafts new flavors and methods with which to defeat his opponents, is second to none (I’d wager Subaru is close, owing to his dedication to stalking and copying his targets). And it pays off here.

Megashima soundly defeats Kaburagi off-camera, proving even a former third-seat is still a formidable challenger; which gives the rebels a clean 3-0 sweep in the first bout of the Team Shokugeki. It’s a major setback for Azami, who only shows his frustration in the shadows.

However, that’s all for this second cour of Shokugeki no Souma 3; we won’t learn who wins (or more likely, how the rebels ultimately defeat Azami) until the third cour. Whenever that comes, I be waiting with an empty stomach.

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Tokyo Ghoul:re – 12 – Say My Name

Eto, AKA The One-Eyed Owl, decides to join the fray on the rooftop, siccing Kanae on Sasaki, and the two combine to beat him up enough to send him into his head, where a young Kaneki Ken waits for him. I wonder if that was the whole point: for Eto to re-awaken the Ken in the Sasaki; to rid the Doves of one of their most durable weapons.

The Sasaki inside his mind comes to think of all the sweet dreams he’s had as a corrupting agent; deluding him into thinking “it’s okay to want.” He discards those dreams, and returns to reality with all of Ken’s power, but while seeming to remain Sasaki Haise. He dispatches Kanae, then attacks Shuu as an enemy, forcing Eto to intervene personally, her various puppets bested.

Back in the building, Shirazu summons previously unsummoned powers in order to create an opening for Urie to kill Noro, but in the process, Shirazu is mortally wounded and slowly dies in front of Urie, Mitsuki and Saiko, without doubt the toughest blow the young Quinx Squad has ever had to face.

Saiko can’t stop sobbing, but the loss might hurt Urie most of all…not to mention someone has to make sure Shirazu’s poor little sister is taken care of. Back on the rooftop, Sasaki fights Eto to a draw and forces her to retreat in pieces, leading her to confess her love for Kaneki Ken, who is honored, using her other name, Takatsuki-sensei. This is surely not the last we’ve seen of Eto.

The Sasaki Haise who emerges from the battle turns back into the model CCG investigator once his superior Ui arrives, claiming Shuu for himself while ceding Kanae to him. Sasaki throws Shuu off the building, but Kanae jumps off right behind him, revealing her true identity as Karen and confessing her love for Shuu before saving him from falling to his death at the cost of her own life.

The hardened Sasaki who meets back up with his Quinx Squad, not one man shorter, has no mercy for a crying Urie, blaming him for not being strong enough to keep Shirazu safe. With the loss of Shirazu and Sasaki’s transformative rooftop battle, the fun times are most certainly over. On the bright side, Shuu is still, somehow, alive, and is picked up by Tooka and Chie.

Needless to say, this felt less like an ending and more like a mid-season wrap-up, because Tokyo Ghoul re: will be back in the Fall. I’ll be sure to tune back in.

Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 23 – The Natural

I was a little out of the loop regarding Isshiki’s pedigree, but that’s cleared up early this week: the Isshiki family has been, along with the Kinokuni family to which Nene belongs, one of the two pillars of Japanese cuisine in Kyoto. Not only that, when he turned four, Isshiki moved in with the Kinokunis to train away from home.

As such, he and Nene have known each other since they were little kids…though Nene resists the assertion that they’re “childhood friends.” When Satoshi asks why she’s always so opposed to his existence, she says “you know why.”

The judges are also introduced as belonging to the revered book of restaurant ratings known as the WGO Guide, led by their marshal Anne. The WGO is akin to the real-life Michelin Guide, giving one to three stars to gourmet restaurants which propels them to the apex of the culinary world. They’re kingmakers and kingbreakers.

Taking stars away can lead to a restaurant’s ruin, as well as the end of that chef’s confidence. Anne notes quite blatantly that Yukihira Diner isn’t even in “The Book”, but makes it clear that this fact has nothing to do with the Shokugeki at hand, and that she and her two colleagues will judge the dishes put before them with fairness and impartiality.

Shiratsu Jurio presents his dish: the quintessentially Italian capitone in umido. With a rich San Marzano tomato sauce and crispy-creamy polenta perfectly complementing the fatty umami of the eel, the judges feel like they’re being cradled in a large bosom of flavor. It’s a masterpiece of by-the-book Italian cooking, and a testament to Jurio’s tireless hard work trying to reach Isshiki’s level.

Isshiki’s dish is not traditional Japanese or anything else, except in its very basic structure, that of Hitsumabushi. However, this is “Polar Star Style”, which integrates a number of ingredients developed (and in some cases not yet perfected) by his beloved Polar Star juniors, which he admits he just flat-out stole from them in order to showcase their skill in their individual specializations.

It really is the best dish someone fighting for the rebellion could present: one that doesn’t just show the judges what a good chef he is, but the potential of chefs below him, as well as his own judgment and confidence in their skills, even if they don’t have the same confidence in themselves.

Satoshi wins the match with Jurio running away, but after curt congratulations, Nene tells him she’ll defeat him in the second bout. She sees this as yet another example of Satoshi, whom she’s known longer than anyone else present, excelling at things with minimal effort, as he did with everything she threw at him when they were kids.

Things that took her endless effort came frustratingly easily to Satoshi, but what has always angered her more than anything is that is was so clearly she felt he wasn’t putting in 100% of his effort. If he did, he’d surely have been above her in the Elite Ten rankings. Really, she’s not disputing his greatness, but lamenting that he isn’t as great as he could be if he, say, worked as hard as she has.

That distinction in her long-standing grievance with him makes all the difference; this isn’t petty jealousy, but disappointment. However, Satoshi tells her they won’t be facing off in the second bout, because Souma is going to defeat her. With one episode until the 24-ep mark, we’re potentially looking at tresults of the remaining two matches in this first bout.

Will Souma beat Nene with his “instant soba”, or will Nene crush his “desperate improvisation” with her Elite soba knowhow? Can Megishima make it a clean rebel sweep by defeating Kaburagi? Or will one of the remaining two rebels fall to Central, making the other win the clincher? We shall see.

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 11 – Forest of Thorns

Tsukiyama’s underlings will do everything they can to keeping him alive as long as possible—no easy task when you have some of CCG’s finest after him. Having already lost so many people, Shuu all but begs Matsumae to make him a promise to come back alive along with Mairo, but she can’t keep it.

Kijima and Ihei await Matsumae and Mairo, while Shuu ends up encountering Sasaki on the rooftop helipad. Sasaki urges Shuu to surrender. Shuu doesn’t comply. He can’t. His life is no longer his own, if it ever was. Shuu has decided that honoring the sacrifices made in his name by living is more important than trying to wring Ken out of Sasaki Haise. So they fight.

It’s a bloody outing, as expected. The two new recruits Shimoguchi reluctantly accepted into his “cursed” squad are taken out by a masked Kanae; killed protecting him, who did nothing but shit-talk them till the end. Ihei is simply having fun fighting Matsumae…until she fails to mind her surroundings, slips on some blood, and gets run through.

Noro, one of Aogiri’s top ghouls, has also arrived, and the Quinx squad along with some others are unlucky enough to face his constantly-regenerating ponytailed ass. And get this: Saiko actually gets to demonstrate her power for once, rather than just stand there with her giant hammer waiting to be rescued (though she does that too, and her big attack has no effect on Noro).

Somewhat surprisingly, two of the most cocky and confident Doves in Ihei and Kijima meet most inauspicious and gruesome deaths; Ihei by a last minute suicide assist from Mairo; Kijima by his own chainsaw quinque, which happens to land right down the middle of his oddly-proportioned head. I wont miss either of them?

When everyone’s in deep shit and there’s seemingly no answer for Goro’s regenerating, Shirazu volunteers to cast away his fear and wield Nutcracker, but like Saiko’s kagune, it’s a lot of sound and fury signifying (and settling) nothing. Noro is simply blown into tiny pieces that are reformed into something even more grotesque and deadly.

Back up on the roof, the Eto-coached Kanae joins the fight, relieving Sasaki of his arm. Sasaki, for his part, was able to correctly predict every move Shuu made, though he didn’t dodge them. We learn that like Shuu is now, Kanae was once a girl, and the last living member of her family, but shed the gender of her birth in order to take on the Rosewald mantle.

But whether Sasaki, remembering Arima’s tough-love training, will show Kanae or Shuu any mercy is up for debate. And we have another ghoul incoming who will shift the momentum once more. But so far this is turning out to be a win for no one.

Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 22 – Family Matters

Souma, Erina, Megumi and Takumi’s recently expelled friends arrive on Rebun Island, granted permission by Azami to watch what he believes will be the decisive crushing of the rebellion with one swift stroke. It’s at the shokugeki arena when we’re reminded just how large a portion of Totsuki is totally in the bag with Azami, from the demented idol Urara to the plebs in the stands, to the extremely quality collection of Elite Ten chefs he’s installed.

The crowd is firmly against the rebels, and at moments, I must admit that even I felt occasional pangs of doubt just from the sheer charisma of the majority. Central is making the rank-and-file students’ lives easier, but at the cost of stifling unsolicited creativity and innovation. Meanwhile, the expelled are treated like literal convicts and must watch the shokugeki from a giant cage with iron bars, which is a bit much if you ask me!

In order to match the Elite Ten’s eight current members in numbers, the rebel quartet recruited the most elite chefs available: former third-seat Megishima (whom we’ve seen very little of, but if he was third-seat he must be something), Isshiki (whose first loyalty is to his kohais), Kuga-senpai, who wants to stick it to the Installed Eight, and our favorite stalker chef, Mimasaka Subaru. That’s a damn good team!

Team leaders Azami and Erina agree to start with three duels, and the fixtures are Isshiki vs. eighth-seat Shiratsu Jurio; Megishima vs. fifth-seat Kaburagi Shouko, and Souma vs. … sixth-seat Kinokuni Nene. While what we get about who she is is a rapid-fire affair, the show has proven adept and quickly making characters people we can care about, even if they’re not on the right side. They also saved Hanazawa Kana, employing her huskier voice, for the role of Nene; an elite seiyu for an elite character.

Despite her participation in the Azami regime, Nene is a woman of honor and propriety, well-bred in traditional Japanese cooking, dance, music, calligraphy…and soba making. Her family owns the final word in soba restaurants, and if she comes off as a bit aloof, well, she’s earned it. She hasn’t glided her way to where she is on the backs of her family name; she’s worked her own ass off.

When Souma, in his infinite bad luck at the worst times, manages to pick “soba” from the random battle themes, Nene is justified in declaring she’ll mop the floor with him. It’s calm, cool confidence, not cockiness. Her textbook handmade noodlemaking skills are unparalleled, having been honed over years. Souma can’t compete with them, so he doesn’t try.

Instead, he makes the best soba noodles he can possibly make, which in his case, means using a machine. What’s worse than machine-made noodles? Badly-handmade noodles. Juichirou warned his son that his usual seat-of-the-pants, bold-for-bold’s-sake improv act won’t cut it against such highly-specialized talents as Nene. He has to know when to make a strategic pivot, not take the bait, and wait for an opportunity.

At the same time, his win over Hayama due having made something that best represented the chef he is, Souma isn’t doing a rarified-air flavor only a paltry few can comprehend, let alone enjoy. The “time and history” from which he’ll draw power is in his diner upbringing: creating flavors with wide appeal, yet elevated to gourmet status for the shokugeki.

We then pivot to the second of the three first duels, an eel battle between Isshiki and the never-before (by me at least) seen or noticed Shiratsu Jurio. Like Nene, he has a lofty pedigree; as his family has served the Italian consulate in Japan for years and is highly regarded in both countries’ culinary circles. He’s also a master of stagecraft with his various “rondos.”

Where Nene trash-talked Souma with mostly quantifiable facts and logic, Jurio tries to get under the almost eternally-cheerful Isshiki’s skin by castigating him for betraying his own bigshot family. When that doesn’t work, Jurio insults the Polar Star expellees, and immediately wishes he hadn’t.

Leave it to Isshiki to let all insults directed at him and his biological family slide off like raindrops off a fireman’s helmet, but hearing his beloved dormmates dragged lights in him a fire and energy that wasn’t there earlier in the match. Isshiki resolves to crush Jurio simply for running his mouth.

The third match is barely mentioned, but I’m sure we’ll learn more about the rarely-seen Megishima and virtually never-seen Kaburagi next week. As for who will win, well…I can’t see Souma ever achieving the goal of becoming first-seat if he can’t beat a sixth at her specialty. He’s gotta win, somehow.

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 10 – The Things We’re Taking are Lives

Eto confronts Kanae and proceeds to read them like the open book they are. She seems intent on changing Kanae’s fruitless course to make Shuu love them. Eto offers them an apple, or “fruit of knowledge”, in the form of one of her “bones.”

This will likely make Kanae more powerful and thus capable of taking away that “something precious” from Shuu—namely Sasaki Haise—in order to take their place as Shuu’s “precious person.” It’s also sure to come at a heavy cost: Kanae’s remaining humanity, sanity, et cetera. Like Rize and Ken, the deal seems a bit…Faustian.

We also learn the core of Shirazu’s hesitance to use Nutcracker. The final words of the first ghoul he killed echoed what his sister said, once what had been a mole under her eye turned into a life-changing growth: “I want to be pretty.” He’s in CCG and the Quinx Squad only to make enough money for her considerable care.

Fura comes upon him, and relays to him the commonality of investigators having trouble with quinques from their first kills. He says it’s perfectly normal, and even healthy, as someone who felt nothing for taking another life is probably not a great way to start one’s CCG career.

As we’ve seen, the opinions on morality vis-a-vis ghouls within the organization run the gamut from “ghouls are people” to “ghouls are targets to be eliminated.” Shirazu would seem to be oriented more towards the former; S1 investigators Ui and Ihei the latter.

As Haise deals with his worsening identity crisis, he continues to do his job, wanting both himself and Quinx to be useful to S1 in the operation to take down Rose. To that end, Ui allows him and Quinx to don the masks Uta made them (or in Haise’s case, made for Ken) and mingle with the ghouls for intel.

They learn that all the ghouls on the street are uneasy, guarded, distrustful of newcomers, and in Haise’s case, deathly afraid of his mask, which is that of the “Eyepatch Ghoul.” He learns the name “Kotarou Amon”, then meets with Shuu, wanting to learn more about Kaneki Ken so that he can accept him.

But despite having been restored to health by Haise, Shuu has no idea what to tell him about Ken, and ends up running away. Besides, his hands are full; his servant Yuma is still being held by Kijima. In a sickeningly brutal scene that shows where on the spectrum Kijima falls, he executes an already brutally tortured Yuma.

As Ui receives permission from CCG Chairman Washu to implement the Tsukiyama Family Eradication plan (with S2 head Washu breathing down his neck), Haise searches the archives for more info on Kotarou Amon and the Eyepatch Ghoul, fearing that in reality he was the latter and murdered the former. Akira draws him into a hug, comforting him without confirming any of his (correct) assumptions.

That night, Shuu’s Papa Mirumo gives him a cup of coffee, which makes him pass out instantly. The Doves surround the mansion, and Mirumo greets them in the grand foyer, claiming he does not intend to fight or resist, but only asks that he and his family be left alone and allowed to live out their lives as people, as they have done. Ui isn’t having it.

When Shuu wakes up, his world has been inverted. He’s in a car, being driven by Matsumae at top speed away from the mansion, where Papa and all the other servants are making a stand for Shuu’s sake. Shuu wants to go back; Matsumae won’t comply. It’s imperative Shuu survive.

They arrive at the headquarters of one of the Tsukiyama Group’s many subsidiaries, where an army of Ghouls loyal to Shuu’s Papa stand ready to fight to the last man to keep him safe. All Shuu can do is admire the greatness that inspired such loyalty, greatness he likely doubts he himself possesses.

The three Tsukiyama veterans in charge of the defense get prepare for what may be their final night alive, as a smug-as-hell Ihei orders the commencement of the extermination operation.

As the aggressors in this latest conflict, led by those who made the decision long ago that Ghouls are not to be empathized with or shown mercy, the Doves definitely felt like the Bad Guys this week—which means Haise and our Quinx Squad are fighting on the wrong side.

Hinamatsuri – 08 – Getting Angry at Balls

When a serious-looking woman with black boots and gloves arrives in town (fully-clothed-Terminator-style) asking Anzu for Hina’s whereabouts, it felt like the beginning of the end for Hina’s stay with Nitta…for about five minutes.

Then we learn that while Ikaruga Kei looks the part of a badass punative field officer, Anzu has to keep her from constantly taking shortcuts in her duties, and she’s terrified of clashing with Hina, who apparently destroyed a city when she lost control one day.

Ikaruga’s duties aren’t even that involved or complicated; as Anzu says, anyone could follow Hina and check off boxes that determine whether she’s still out of control (she isn’t). As for Anzu herself? When she never returned due to her travel orb getting ruined in the wash, she was declared KIA and is now free to live her best life.

Ikaruga ultimately gives up when both the novice and advanced-level questionnaires reveal Hina has changed and grown, but later reads an addendum that stipulates if she gets over a 90% score, it means she can, and should, return “home”, wherever that is; thankfully the show never says. Ikaruga also has a dog, thanks to a failed gambit to get Hina to fail a question about caring for animals.

Meanwhile, Hina continues going to school where she mostly eats and sleeps. However, despite having a broken leg she still has cleaning duty, and a classmate witnesses her using telekinesis to toss out the garbage. Not just any classmate, but Shinjou Mami, who is obsessed with magic and the occult.

Mami believes she’s made a monumental discovery, but has heard what the ominous “Organization” did to the last person to speak out about it, and so intends to tread carefully. At the end of the day, however, she just comes right out and directly confronts Hina, who does not deny her powers.

Mami quickly befriends Hina and decides to become the disciple to the master, even though Hina’s powers are non-transferrable. Watching Mami try all day to lift a rock on her own, Hina lifts it for her out of a desire to leave the riverbank since it’s getting late.

That only makes things worse for Mami, who believes she lifted the rock (and later rocks), and despite not being able to lift anything when Hina’s not around, she quickly gets full enough of herself to make a big show of her powers in class, which ends in abject failure and humiliation.

Eventually Ikaruga confronts Hina, who is celebrating her leg being healed with a big chocolate parfait, and tells her she has to go home. Hina doesn’t want to, but she’s grown to the point where she knows the value of orders, and will obey them in this case, to Ikaruga’s shock.

That means she has to drop the news to Nitta that she’s leaving, and the novelty tees she wears that say “BYEBYE” and “SAYONARA” don’t do the trick. She levitates and flies around in place until she’s nauseous trying to think of the best way.

After a brace of medical tests comes up, Nitta finally demands she tell him what’s up. He responds by taking her out for one last ikura bowl before driving her to the spot where she’ll meet with Ikaruga. Nitta is honest in his parting words, telling Hina she’s been a royal pain in the ass, but he nevertheless really enjoyed the time they had together.

That puts a rare joyful smile on Hina’s face…but she’s obviously not going anywhere. After all, the “Orb” in which she arrived at Nitta’s apartment—and in which he got stuck and had to stew in his own urine all night—was discarded (with other non-burnable trash) and is now lost and possibly destroyed. No orb, no return home.

Hina’s, and the episode’s, return to the status quo is marked when she reappears at Nitta’s to learn that he is holding a New Year “Without Hina” Party…all by himself. She interrupts the start of his explanation with a grave “NOT COOL.”

Between the sometimes lazy security chief Ikaruga and the would-be disciple Mami, we got two solid new players in this world of complex characters who each command their share of laughs with both their actions and their inner thoughts.

I also enjoyed little moments like when Anzu and Ikaruga muse on what should be done with the dog, or Mami’s mom standing in the hall. While it might well have been interesting for Hina to actually go home, by not doing so the show preserves the mystery of that place and the organization that administrates it.

I don’t mind learning how “powered” girls need the Orbs to travel…but I don’t really need to get too deep into the workings of the other world. I dig the mystique. Plus, there’s plenty to do right here on Earth.

Golden Kamuy – 07 – #NotExtinctYet

Sugimoto, Asirpa, and Shiraishi end up in a good old-fashioned standoff with Nihei and Tanigaki, ending with Tanigaki racing off with Asirpa so she won’t hear the screams of Sugimoto and Shiraishi’s deaths. But because Shiraishi is an escape artist, he and Sugimoto are able to slip out of their paltry binds and pursue Tanigaki.

Nihei underestimated Shiraishi, and Tanigaki underestimates his surroundings, tripping a deer trap that puts a wolfsbane-dipped arrow in his leg. He has no choice but to release Asirpa so she can cut the poisoned flesh out (gross), but when she’s done Nihei catches up with them and uses Asirpa as bait for Retar.

However, Retar was simply no match for Nihei, because Retar had backup, in the person (well, in the wolf) of his mate, who delivers the fatal bite to Nihei’s jugular. When Sugimoto and Shiraishi arrive, Nihei has basically bled out, while Retar rejoins his family, something Asirpa (not to mention nobody else) had any idea he had.

So, reports of the Ezo Wolf’s extinction were grossly exaggerated. Seeing Retar with his family brought tears to my eyes. I also felt for poor Ryuu, who lost his master, but thankfully Asirpa insists on taking Tanigaki to the village, lest the loyal-to-a-fault Ryuu stay with him until he dies then starve to death.

In the village, the young Ainu get another good look at a Japanese fellow with weird ears in Shiraishi, while he and Sugimoto tuck into some deer stew and something I’m going to call “salmonsicles”. When the village elder speaks of how the gold sullied the rivers that brought them fish, she mentions how Ainu from all over Hokkaido squirreled away a hoard of gold far larger than even the prisoners know about.

Tanigaki, wounded but conscious, basically corroborates the old woman, and adds the story of his commander, Lt. Tsurumi, who had to lead a forward advance that led to the deaths of half the 7th. The chief of staff committed suicide in disgrace and left the entire division in disgrace, unpaid and unawarded for their valor. From there, Tsurumi vowed to seize Hokkaido for the 7th and open a weapons factory so that their families could work and be provided for.

Tanigaki’s story paints Tsurumi in a more sympathetic light, but it doesn’t sway Sugimoto from his goal to find the gold and keep it away from Tsurumi and men like him.

Speaking of ‘men like him’, the group led by Hijikata goes into town, mostly so that Ushiyama, a raging hulk of a man, can sleep with some women lest he go even more berserk than he usually is. Then Shiraishi, in his infinite bad luck (why else would he be so good at escaping?), ends up face to face with the man-beast, and unwisely tries to run from him.

Ushiyama will have his “little chat” with Shiraishi, and he bowls through four people like they’re ninepins, shakes off being buried by rocks, tosses a horse-and-sleigh aside like they were nothing, and is generally an cartoonishly unstoppable monster of a man. Shiraishi finally finds some soldiers of the 7th—four of them—but what are a few bullets to Ushiyama? We’ll have to wait until next week to find out.

Hinamatsuri – 07 – Take a Deep Breath Here and Hold it

Despite being introduced as the girl from the same “realm” as Hina come to eliminate her, Anzu’s stories since have tugged hardest on the heartstrings due to the circumstances in which she ends up, and this week is no different.

We start off with her learning the ropes of the restaurant owned by the couple who took her in, and she’s constantly saying and doing things that remind them of her destitute recent past, and thus make them tear up.

Those things include her clothes always being too big, 800 yen being a king’s ransom, and using only cold water for her shower. However, her time among the homeless made her a hard worker and a quick study, and by the time her first day is over, she has time to soak in her warm and comfy new home. Dawww.

From the sweetness of Anzu getting acclimated to her new life, we shift to Hina getting chewed out by a teacher for constantly sleeping (guilty as charged), and what do you know, Hina actually uses her powers!

Not to do anything to the teacher, mind you; she merely manipulates her desk neighbor Hitomi into pocking out a pointillist sketch of a knife-wielding oni, which Hitomi would surely get in trouble for if teach saw it!

Hina isn’t just sleeping at school because she’s tired; she’s also bored. Nitta tells her to figure out on her own how to make things more fun. When she hears some somewhat exaggerated claims about how much power a student council president has, Hina mixes it with stuff she saw on TV and announces her candidacy, to the dubiousness of all.

When Hina tells her homeroom teacher “I’ve got this”, he’s never been less convinced, and scoffs at a fellow teacher praising his ambitious kids. The only one who takes Hina seriously is someone who barely knows her; Nitta’s boss, who instructs the company lawyer to draft a proper speech for her.

When that suggestion was first made, I knew it would result in some comedy gold, and readers, I was not disappointed. After ignoring a teacher’s insistance first-years can’t run for president (causing the whole auditorium to note her ignoring him, in unison!) Hina starts out strong, as her speech is a reasonable argument for a competitive bidding process for a new lunch supplier.

Things go off the rails once Hina simply recites even the parts she’s not supposed to read (‘take a deep breath here’) and even the lawyer-speak can’t hide the fact that a school-mandated afternoon nap for middle schoolers is…a bit silly.

Nevertheless, Hina wins secretary, a job for which she’s a no-show for the first few council meetings. When a member pays a visit to her classroom, only Hitomi is there to receive her, and Hitomi being Hitomi, gets roped into yet more work as she inadvertently fills in for Hina and is appointed “stand-in secretary.” Guys…Hitomi’s got a bar to tend!

The third segment finds the middle ground between Anzu’s poignant introduction to homed life and Hina’s comedic presidential campaign, as Nitta once again fails to secure a date with Utako, and Hina urges him to talk about it with her so he’ll feel better (having learned this on TV, of course).

When Hitomi gets word Hina’s “dad” wants to date her boss, she thinks of how hard it must’ve been for Hina losing her mother (whom she envisions also had blue hair, since Nitta doesn’t), and vows to help get Nitta that date in any way she can so Hina can one day have a new mom.

Her efforts don’t go so swell at first, as Hina’s hamfisted act makes it seem as though Nitta put her up to asking Utako on his behalf. Hitomi persists, and Utako relents, agreeing to go on the dang date.

Upon learning Hina got him said date, Nitta picks her up and spins her around the room in elation…until she smacks her foot on the doorway and breaks it. In the hospital room Hina insists Nitta carry on with the date, which he does…but on that date—the audio for which we never hear—he apparently never stops talking about Hina.

Utako takes that, and Hina’s closeness to Nitta, to mean that she’d only come between them if she continued dating them, not at all perceiving the fact that they’d both welcome her as part of the family if things progressed that far (and there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t).

And so Nitta essentially strikes out for being too good a fake dad, and has to resort to using a hand puppet to represent Hina’s new mom, which even Hina isn’t buying!

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 07 – Iroha and Hikari Grow Closer as Triangles Form

When Iroha sees Hikari with Ayado after telling her to stay away from him, Iroha is jealous. While she almost immediately regrets asking Ishino for advice, Ishino makes some good points.

Just because Iroha may not have ever told someone “the way she wants it to be” doesn’t mean she “has no right” to do so. In this case, it’s not imposing her will on Hikari so much as expressing how she feels to him, considering he’s not the world’s most perceptive man.

The situation resolves itself in a satisfying way, when Iroha witnesses Ayado being accidentally soaked then openly mocked by classmates, but turning the other cheek. She sees a lot of Hikari in her, someone who is kind and gentle, but also someone who perhaps gives too much without asking for anything in return. Hey, Ayado has a lot of Iroha in her too!

Iroha’s jealousy dissipates as she learns Ayado is a good person, while feeling regret for insisting Hikari trust her while initially doubting him a bit in this case. Iroha also seems worried about coming off as overly hostile or angry all the time, but Hikari doesn’t mind; he wants her to feel she can talk to him about anything bothering her.

The next day Ishino acts as Iroha’s attack dog unbidden, but they’re interrupted by Ayado herself, who wins Ishino over as quickly as Iroha (noting how Hikari surrounds himself with such beauties). With both Iroha and Ishino thus approving of her, Ayado seems poised to join their circle of friends.

Itou, on the other hand, bolts upon being introduced, but that turns out simply to be his shyness, and once he learns what a nice person Ayado is, before long he’s offering her a handkerchief to wipe away the tears of joy she sheds upon being invited to a picnic with the others.

Later, Hikari touches Ayado’s hair while trying to pluck something out of it (it turns out to be a caterpillar, which he’s not into). But unbeknownst to Hikari, his careless gesture of intimacy has Ayado’s heart racing.

When the weekend arrives, Hikari spends some quality guy time with Itou in Akiba, after Iroha politely declines to join them, insisting “she’ll be fine.” Hikari’s been given significant funds to spend on making himself look less scruffy-looking, and who should appear but the stylish Takanashi, who is apparently only in Akiba for a “computer part” (the district’s original claim to fame).

Takanashi reluctantly tags along and offers Hikari tips, all the while wondering “why am I doing this?” It’s not that complicated: Takanashi is not a complete asshole; as such, he feels bad about what he did to Hikari at school, and this is an act of penance.

He is rewarded when he’s able to witness Hikari being a badass when Ayado—handing out tissues in a maid costume for a new cafe to earn money to buy a figure she wants—is harassed by young men who find her irresistible.

Hikari isn’t overly judgy or aggressive—he merely puts himself between Ayado and the lads and firmly informs them of proper Akiba etiquette regarding maids, and encouraging them to come back once they’ve done more research. This performance causes Ayado to swoon once more.

Hikari meets up with Iroha that evening to apologize for not hanging out with her, and Iroha reiterates that it’s fine, and they have a nice chat (and he shows her his new fashionably short pants). The next morning Ayado races past them, and while it’s plain she has a crush on Hikari, it’s not plain to him.

When Ishino suggests, no, assigns the group of friends to a camping trip at her relative’s cabin in the woods, Hikari is firmly against such a “normie” activity—until both Itou and Iroha express genuine interest. Ishino is entrusting Hikari with inviting her crush Takanashi, while Itou is considering inviting his new crush Ayado.

So Ishino likes Takanashi, who like(d) Iroha; Iroha and Hikari like each other, Ayado likes Hikari, and Itou likes Ayado. Should be an interesting camping trip!

Hinamatsuri – 06 – All She Remembers is the Chili Shrimp

The moment his mother calls and Hina answers, Nitta has to figure out a way to explain why a 13-year-old girl is living with him, so he crafts an intricate story, the gist of which is that Hina is the orphan of a couple who were killed in a feud.

Hina’s robotic delivery may be unconvincing, but Nitta explains it away by noting that the girl was traumatized by the experience, and all she remembers of it is “the chili shrimp” (though he should have said ikura, since Hina knows what that is).

Nitta eventually comes clean to his mother and his alcoholic kid sister, though he replaces one lie with another: Hina is his daughter. But is it a lie? I mean, obviously not biologically, but in practically every other way, that’s what he is. His fam doesn’t object, and welcome her with enthusiastic open arms.

Watching Nitta knit his web of lies had lots of comedic value, as did Hina’s inept attempts to stick to their story. But the second half of this episode barely makes any effort to be funny. Instead, it goes for straight drama, as new municipal statues mean the homeless people Anzu lives with are going to be kicked out of the park where they live.

While all the old men go their separate ways, Utako (their friend and vocal advocate) has found a husband and wife willing to take Anzu in. Anzu doesn’t want to stop fighting, but this is a battle she can’t win, and the old men are not only resigned to their fate and fully prepared to move on, but are likely relieved this young kid won’t have to live on the streets collecting cans anymore.

Anzu is anything but celebratory. Upon suddenly finding herself in the relative lap of luxury, with delicious food, clean clothes, and a warm bed—none of it costing her anything—all Anzu can do is worry about how she doesn’t deserve any of it, as well as worry about her friends like Yassan who are still out there on the streets.

Anzu thinks this way because she has an enormous heart and a strong moral compass. But she’s being far too hard on herself; no one of her age (or at least the age she appears to be in the form she’s taken in this world) should have to worry about working for food; she should have adults who care for her, as Nitta cares for Hina.

Sure, Hina helps him out occasionally (though certainly not lately), and when Anzu learns he new guardians run a Chinese restaurant, she is eager to help out in any way she can (again, because she’s a super-good person). But one thing she’ll hopefully learn is that her work isn’t an requisite of food, shelter, and care.

Her new guardians just want her to be happy and safe. Still, they tell her the people she’s worried about will always be a part of her, and her a part of them, so she needn’t ever feel alone.

I tellsya, it was a goddamn tearjerker; Anzu’s tears of joy wouldn’t be out of place in 3-gatsu no Lion, while seiyu Murakawa Rie does a marvelous job voicing Anzu. I’m mostly just glad she’s no longer homeless!

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 06 – Isn’t This Kinda Nintendo Hard?

Hikari seriously needs to get up out of his head, for real. He also needs to RELAX. Iroha is upset because she’s worried he still doesn’t trust her. He uses his “I’m a stupid antisocial otaku who can’t read the atmosphere” card as an excuse for not understanding her anger/concern.

Meanwhile, Ayado Sumie is the easiest person in the world to talk with, and gives thanks and praise to Hikari, along with a batch of fresh potatoes, for helping her “live on with pride in her body” and simply “talking to somebody.”

Between having Iroha as a girlfriend and Ayado as, well, an admirer (if not more), Hikari’s grows a big head without even noticing it, and when he spots Itou talking to a cat, he assumes it’s out of loneliness because he isn’t hanging out with him enough.

Itou rebuffs Hikari’s angle with extreme prejudice, and before he knows it, Hikari is alone, like he was before, only now it’s unbearable, even when he’s cooking. He recalls how he and Itou met, back when it was not only bearable, but natural.

Itou was constantly taken advantage of by the class thugs, and Hikari won’t give him the time of day, but when he recovers Hikari’s earbuds after said thugs threw them out the window, Hikari pays him back by not flaking out on an after-school art project foisted upon them.

When the thugs try to destroy Hikari’s 800-yen magazine he just bought, Itou snaps into action, “making his kindness into something that can be properly returned.” Itou gets slugged, but he gains Hikari as a friend.

After apologizing and making up with Itou, Hikari considers doing the same with Iroha…but chickens out. Still, he can’t bear her angry face, and so waits quietly outside her house like a stalker until he realizes how stalkery this all is and prepares to leave, but Iroha answers the door.

He gives her a peace offering of potato dumplings, and she invites him in, finally admitting she’s tired of being angry, as well as explaining why she was. Hikari responds that there’s no way he wouldn’t trust her; it’s just that he can’t believe how happy he is because of her.

After they kiss and hug, that feeling intensifies, and curdles into distrust not in Iroha, but his own animal urges, which he assumes are not wanted. He promptly—probably too promptly—flees, and the next day he’s incredibly awkward with Iroha once more, and warns her to stay away from him.

Once again, he finds it much easier to interact with his kohai Ayado than Hikari, and finds comfort in sitting beside her. He also gives her some potato dumplings, since she gave him the potatoes. This would all be fine if Iroha couldn’t watch them being so friendly from the windows.

When Arisa sees Iroha and asks what’s up, Iroha can only run into her arms, clearly distraught, and wonder “why it has to be this way”. Hikari isn’t trying to hurt her—in fact, he’s trying to do the opposite—but he needs to learn about boundaries with other girls while he’s dating one…especially if he’s going to run out on her when he’s at her house and run away from her at school.

Dude seriously needs to relax and stop committing unforced errors.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 05 – When Life Throws Hard-Boiled Eggs at Your Face, Eat Them

Despite being caught by both Iroha and his little sister Anzu, Takanashi is to prideful and egotistic to apologize to Hikari so easily, and so the abuse at school continues.

Hikari is resigned to the fact that even the garbage perpetrator of the nasty lolicon rumors won’t be able to credibly recant his lies, and takes solace in the fact he’s flanked by a good friend in Itou on one side and a loving girlfriend on the other.

Indeed, when he tells Iroha that it doesn’t matter if most of the school has the wrong idea about him, as long as she doesn’t. Those are words from Hikari’s heart, that he said without difficulty, and they elicit an “I love you” from his girlfriend.

He’ll wish he had so much ease in communicating his feelings later on.

While at Hikari’s house, Iroha tries to get the measure of his little brother Kaoru, and mentions that she’s met Anzu. She learns that he’s very much like his brother, as he’s more concerned with protecting Anzu than himself, even if he’s hellbent on making it clear to the world that he’s way cooler than his older bro.

Back at school, Hikari’s turn-the-other-cheek mentality wears on Takanashi, to the point he confronts him and demands he say or do something, anything back in response to defend himself. Hikari tells the guy to stay in his lane; someone who started this whole mess doesn’t have the right to dictate how he should handle it.

Just talking to Hikari draws attention from Takanashi’s friends, and while he’s not immediately willing to set the record straight, he still lashes out at them when they’re harsh with Hikari right in front of him. Later, in private, Hikari tells Takanashi he’s actually incredibly happy despite the hardship the lies have caused.

Hikari’s even willing to let Takanashi keep up appearances for the sake of his ego; all he asks is that he make the truth known to his mother, brother, and only female friend, Arisa. Of course, before Takahashi can tell Arisa the truth, she’s macking on him, poor judge of character that she is.

The result of the little summit is that all of the people who actually matter to Hikari now know the truth, which is more than enough for him. When next we see him, he’s sleep-deprived from binging Ezomichi-san all night, and suddenly collides with a first-year girl who also wears glasses and also loves anime, which is why she’s eager to return the anime magazine Hikari dropped when they collided.

Ayado (voiced wonderfully by Ueda Reina), as socially awkward as Hikari if not moreso, tracks him down and returns the book, then proceeds to talk his ear off, but when Iroha (whom she calls “the perfect 3D girl”) shows up she assumes she mistook a normie for a fellow otaku, and races off before Hikari can say a word.

Hikari shrugs off the encounter and agrees to go to a festival with Iroha. He turns up in an ill-fitting frumpy yukata, while she arrives in modern clothes. He has fun, she has fun watching him have fun, and when he can’t find the right words to express how he’s feeling, he simply holds her hand.

When they spot Takanashi and his sister, Hikari asks Iroha how she handled him trying to ask her out, wondering if it was hard to turn down a “hot guy.” It’s a big miss for a guy who’s said the right words often to this point.

Iroha is rightfully angered, not just because Hikari once again shows how he thinks he’s inferior to others, but also because he would think she’s the kind of person who gives a shit about hot guys after everything she’s said to him. She storms off, and the next day, Hikari doesn’t get a response to his texts.

In the midst of this silent fight, Hikari encounters Ayado gardening, and talks with her a bit about anime before continuing his search for Iroha. He also encounters Arisa, who demands he put in a good word for her with Takanashi.

Later, in the hall Hikari overhears students talking shit about Ayado, then comes face-to-face with Ayado herself, who surely heard the insults. His good heart kicks in and he enters into a lively conversation about anime with her.

Ayado is very moved by Hikari’s ignoring of the other boys, as well as his clearly genuine interest in anime, which very much mirrors her own. Indeed, she’s moved to tears, which leads Hikari to give her the bouquet of  funereal flowers left on his desk, while insisting he’s not a normie at all.

Arisa witnesses him cheering up Ayado and smacks him for being such a shameless “player” while he’s in hot water with Iroha. He finally does locate his girlfriend and apologize for being so “comfortable feeling inferior”, but because that’s only half of the reason Iroha is upset, and Hikari doesn’t understand what he “should try not to say”, their impasse continues.

And it continues at a very interesting time. His name has been cleared with all who really matter in his life, and he’s stumbled upon a girl who could well be a good match, if only he didn’t already have a girlfriend. Sure she’s a bit of a stereotypical nerd girl, but I like her a lot, she’s got a great easy chemistry with Hikari, and unlike Iroha, she’s not poised to move away in a few months’ time. Very interesting indeed…