Arte – 07 – Opportunity Knocks

Despite the fact she’s surely busy with her apprenticing duties, Arte still finds the time to teach Darcia, a young woman she recently met, how to read and write. It’s an example of how Arte is paying forward the advantages she has as a woman of noble birth.

The other side of that is that noblemen like Yuri Falier from Venice are quick to kiss her on the hand to introduce himself. Yuri has a proposal for her: he wants her to travel back to Venice, become his family’s official portrait artist, and become a tutor for his niece, who is also an independent woman.

After sleeping on it, Arte decides to respectfully refuse Yuri’s offer. She’s simply not sure she’s learned enough to jump right into being a full-time artisan and tutor, and more to the point doesn’t feel right leaving Leo alone (Leo for his part, says it’s Arte’s choice to make).

Arte also meets Ruthanna, the daughter of Leo’s master who is very pregnant, but whose husband recently died, and his family won’t return her dowry, leaving her in serious financial trouble. After a cordial reunion with Leo, she doesn’t tell Leo the truth, but she does tell Arte.

Since legal matters are hardly her forte, Arte comes to Veronica for advice.  Veronica basically tells her that in lieu of her husband, Ruthanna needs someone of sufficient status and authority to serve as a proxy and pursue her interests.

Being a widow, Ruthanna has no leverage with her late husband’s family, who don’t care what happens to her or her child. Fortunately, she has Arte, who recently turned down work from someone with ample status and authority!

Arte revisits Yuri (who was already deep in preparations for an “offensive” to win her over anyway, the rascal), and reverses her decision. She’ll work for him, but only three months (negotiated to six). In exchange, he’ll help Ruthanna with her affairs (and he quickly comes through), and agrees that she’ll be able to return to Leo’s workshop when the period is up (though he won’t rule out an extension).

Similarly, Arte agrees to work not as an independent artisan, but as a representative of Leo’s workshop. After seven weeks in Florence, looks like Arte is headed for the picturesque canals of Venezia, where she’s been given an opportunity few men of her day ever got, as well as the opportunity to educate and possibly befriend a fellow strong-willed young woman in Yuri’s niece. She’s approaching all of this in good faith; here’s hoping Yuri does the same…no funny business!

Arte – 06 – Football and Frescoes

This week’s Arte was heavy on the history lessons, as the episode depicted the funeral of a master, handled by the guild. The guild also finds new masters for his apprentices, settles his various other financial affairs, and chips in for the family who survived him.

After the funeral, Arte witnesses a game of Calcio Florentino, a violent early version of football. One of the players notices Arte and is insulted by her presence, but Angelo defends her, saying she’s one of them. Other men come to Arte’s defense, the game turns into a brawl, and Arte gets smacked in the face with the ball.

Fortunately she’s fine, but it is evident at all levels of society that Florence is in a “slump”. In their post-funeral guild meeting, many masters voice their objection to Leo’s taking in of a female apprentice, fearing that an element such as she that divides the apprentices can’t be good.

When Leo comes home with a large bag, I was worried he was ordered to fire her, and it was severance. Instead, they decided to allow Leo to keep Arte, provided the two participate in a huge fresco-painting project in a grand hall. Arte is excited to be a part of it, but faces the usual sexism.

Leo is intentionally harsh on Arte so none of the men think he’s giving her special treatment because she’s a woman. They watch her toil (and in one instance, has to go vomit from overwork) without complaint—with a smile—despite taking on a workload with which even they confess they’d have trouble.

Arte’s hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. Guild Master Aroldo praises Leo on having found a hardworking apprentice any master would want: someone who believes in them and is always trying to keep up. She reminds him of a young Leo, and later admits he may have been selling her too short.

Arte continues to win hearts and minds, including the apprentice who most objected to her presence. When she asks if she can join a game of calcio, he agrees, and the game is on. It’s not the first sport I would choose to play after several consecutive nights of collapsing from exhaustion…but hey, have at it Arte!

We’re then introduced to the fancy Venetian lord, Yuri Falier, who comes to inspect the frescoes so far. His eyes immediately go to Arte’s practice sketches, and he admires their soft, clean lines in contrast to the rougher sketches of the other apprentices. Looks like Arte might have another new patron waiting in the wings.

Arte – 05 – Art as Capital

This week Arte meets Leo’s oldest patron with whom he shares “an inescapable bond” despite not being able to stand the guy. Ubertino is a hugely wealthy merchant who presents a detailed order to Leo.

With the work and expensive media required there’s no way he’ll make a profit. Not eager to negotiate, Leo accepts Arte’s offer to go in his stead, hoping a pretty young girl might warm the old coot’s frigid heart.

Arte ends up failing completely, but asks Leo to give her another chance. Seeing that this is a valuable opportunity for someone who wants to someday go independent, Leo lets Arte keep trying. She first seeks advice in how to get what you want out of a negotiation from her new friend Veronica.

In normal circumstances an artisan’s apprentice would never dream of seeking help from a courtesan, but as we’ve seen Arte is hardly normal! Veronica’s advice helps Arte in Round Two, even though Ubertino immediately detects a courtesan’s manners in her constant smile, straight posture, and slow, steady manner with him.

The most important advice Veronica offers is for Arte to show Ubertino that’s she’s worth paying a high price for her work. Arte doesn’t use her noble status to demand a higher payout, but cites the crochet skills she learned as a noble as evidence of her value to him as an artisan.

Ubertino claims not to care about art in the least, but understands its value as capital; that is, as gifts to rich business partners or donations to the church. Thus, Arte must come to terms with the fact that not all of her future customers commission work out of a love for art, but out of an appreciation for its monetary value.

Arte also learns Ubertino’s salon is full not just of Leo’s work, but that of his master’s, then learns that Leo was a beggar whose natural talent and hard work was nurtured by that master. When the master passed, Ubertino’s patronage passed to Leo (hence the inescapable bond).

Learning about Leo’s modest past excites Arte, since as we’ve discussed, she’s in a similar underdog situation, and like Leo must reach out and take what she wants from life; it will never be given to her. She’s also amused that while Leo and Ubertino claim to not stand each other, they’re a lot alike—especially when it comes to never spending money on themselves.

Arte – 04 – The First Step to Hell

When Arte first experiences heartache, she has no idea what it is, just that it is negatively affecting her work and making her absent-minded. All of that makes Leo annoyed with her. Fortunately, his regular patron Veronica, who requests that Arte paint her portrait, is a font of wisdom in matters of love.

Arte comes right out and says she doesn’t necessarily respect Veronica’s profession, but does respect the hard work and resolve Veronica puts into it. Veronica is flattered, but makes it clear that her job and success is only possible because she avoids falling in love. If she falls for one of the men she entertains, she could end up ruined and in the gutter like one of her former contemporaries.

When Arte learn part of Veronica’s routine with men is to play hard-to-get and intentionally make them wait for days so they’ll be more devoted when they do see her. This angers Arte because she knows what heartache feels like and can’t imagine someone being okay with causing suffering on purpose.

While Arte was initially smitten with Veronica’s smile and charms, she soon see’s it’s to a large degree by design. Veronica and her manner is a brand, and the portrait is part of that—posing in a library with a book to evoke intellectualism). But Arte’s condemnation of how she manipulates men doesn’t preclude their becoming friends who can talk to one another anytime.

As for avoiding love, Arte tries to bury herself in her work and not let Leo distract her. It may seem like cynical advice from Veronica, but in their day and age women who want to live by their own power must fiercely maintain that power, and not cede it to others. Of course, in Leo’s case, maybe clearing the air could be advantageous?

Arte – 03 – Different Kind of Animal

It’s Carnival in Florence, and Leo has Arte dress like a boy so they can sit in on a hospital dissection. On the way, Arte meets one of Leo’s patrons—a courtesan—and sees him smiling in a way she’s never seen before. While normally forbidden by the church, Carnival time is an exception. Some guys go pale or faint from the sight of a cadaver being carved up, but Arte is just fine…she truly has the guts to draw guts!

What the church apparently will not abide is to have a woman at a dissection, so when Arte loses her hat and lets out a very feminine yelp, Leo has to get them both out of there lest they get into some serious legal trouble. It ain’t fair, but that was the time. In the process of running and hiding from their pursuers, Leo draws Arte so close that she notices for the first time how a man’s bone structure and skin differ greatly from a woman’s. She also feels an unpleasant pain in her chest that she’s never felt before. Hmmmmm…I wonder what that could be?????

Arte dismisses such sensations as temporary illness and moves on. She also moves up, as Leo is willing to accelerate her progression through the artisan ranks by assigning her the task of a journeyman: creating a background for a real commissioned painting. Arte sets out and braves the cold, comes back with a fine sketch of a cityscape, and it’s rejected.

She goes back out and does it again, and again…and many more times before Leo has her look at the painting and discern what it is the client truly wants. The woman subject should be the focus, which means the background should have less detail.

That Leo doesn’t spell it out for her, but lets things dawn on her naturally, speaks to his growing respect not just for her work ethic, but artistic instincts. It’s why he’s drawn up a new contract that gives her both a promotion and a raise, and why he rejects her feeling that in obsessing with art she neglected her womanlike charms. Like her father, Leo is one who prefers an independent woman with a strong will and drive to the period’s ideal of a woman: quiet, complacent, and above all idle.

That’s why I’m not the most enthusiastic about Arte suddenly developing a crush on Leo. In her defense, she’s been so absorbed in art in her life she’d never felt romantic feelings for anyone before. The only other person who didn’t look at her like something was wrong with her was her dad. It makes sense that the first man not related to her not to treat her like “just a woman” would make her heart beat a little faster.

Arte – 02 – Put Your Back Into It!

This week Leo gives Arte a sack of money to go out and purchase the materials needed to fix her rooftop shed. Seems simple enough, except that Arte has never had to do any of this before. Every man she interacts with treats her coldly as she goes about business they wouldn’t give a second thought to if she were male.

This kind of misogyny is nothing new to Arte: most men around her assume she’s less than (or biologically unsuited) to do the work they do, and hence they treat her with aversion. The other side of the coin is someone like Angelo Parker. Unlike most of the other men, he treats women with kindness and is eager to help them. That’s nice and all, but it comes out of a sense that women are weak and unsuited to most tasks, and require his help.

It’s paternalism, which he learned from his father (obviously). Angelo has many sisters and as soon as he arrive home they line up to be pampered by him, and he’s all to willing to do so. Now I’m not saying Angelo is a bad guy or a bad brother and son—he’s neither. But he has the wrong mindset for anyone who might want to get involved in Arte.

Compare how Angelo treats Arte throughout this episode to Leo. Thus far, Leo hasn’t made an issue of Arte’s gender, only her worthiness as a person to be his apprentice and an artisan. Arte may be clumsy at times, but at no point has she slacked off given Leo any reason to doubt her commitment. He works her hard, but it’s because he’s setting challenges so she can prove to herself what she’s capable of.

A concept like this is foreign to Angelo, not because he hates women, but because he sees them as too different to be capable of what men are capable of. It explains his quizzical looks when Arte reacts negatively to his gestures of goodwill. Case in point: his master refuses to let Arte sketch a sculpture in his studio, Angelo offers to sneak her in.

But that defeats the whole purpose of striking out as her own independent person. Sure, you’ll need helping hands from people now and again. But Arte is determined to change the master’s mind on her own, and sketch his sculpture with his knowledge and approval. Even if that means lifting ten of what look like 60-pound bags of clay all by herself. Sure enough, watching “a girl do it” in practice convinces the master, as well as endears her to him.

Arte likes Angelo, but doesn’t need him to save her or spoil her. Instead of confused or quizzical, his parting look after Arte explains this is one of revelation. He realizes he doesn’t have to do everything for his sisters, and more importantly they shouldn’t want him to. When he comes home, he asks them to try doing things for themselves, something that might not have ever occured to them. I look forward to Angelo’s feminist conversion!

This week’s Arte can come off a bit preachy at times, but at the end of the day the messages it’s conveying shouldn’t be construed as special or strange, any more than Arte should be considered weird for being an apprentice. Of course, in 16th century Florence seeing a well-dressed young woman hiking up her skirt and pulling a cart full of lumber is an incredible sight because it’s such a rare one.

For Arte and pioneering women like her, there’s no blueprint for how to do this. In addition to working her ass off, Arte also has to endure the reactions of a society that has yet to embrace the idea that men and women are equal. The fact that the battle for equality is still being waged half a millennium later speaks to the sheer weight of Arte’s burden. But like the cart and the bags of clay, she’s putting her back into that ongoing fight.

Arte – 01 (First Impressions) – Her Own Power

Arte, an artistic girl approaching marriageable age in sixteenth century Florence, loves nothing more than capturing the world around around her on paper. The “caged bird” metaphor is immediately put into play: with her father deceased and her noble family barely clinging to solvency, she’ll have to work hard to make a man like her enough to accept a modest dowry. Just one issue: Arte doesn’t want to marry and be caged for life. She wants to be an artisan.

As is the case of oppressed groups throughout history, Arte has to work twice as hard to be noticed half as much, if at all. The sheer difficulty of her task becomes clear when all eighteen of the workshops angrily dismiss her without so much as glancing at her drawings. She’s so frustrated she cuts her hair and threatens to cut off her breasts, but she’s stopped by Leo, who ends up being the first and only man to take a look at her art.

Leo miraculously agrees to let Arte be his apprentice (he currently has none), but sets her on a seemingly impossible task: cleaning, sanding, and priming a huge stack of wooden boards by tomorrow morning, something even he and his fellow masters would be hard pressed to pull off. Yet Arte doesn’t see it as an intentionally undoable feat, and spends all night doing the undoable, ruined noble hands be damned.

Leo, returning home from a bender, is shocked she actually finished the boards, and admits he never intended to give her a real chance. But rather than overt sexism, it’s classism that drives his dubiousness and resentment towards Arte. He became an artisan to avoid a live of begging on the streets, while this rich girl initially tells him she wants to become one because she “loves drawing.”

Then Arte comes clean and tells him that was just putting on airs. In truth, she wants to live through her own power—not just some rich dude’s—Leo realizes he read the girl wrong. After all, even a former beggar like him had a better chance of becoming an apprentice than even the richest girl in Florence. He decides to give her a chance.

With that, Arte moves out of her family’s estate, against her mother’s explicit wishes (we’ll see if there are consequences for that) and into a decided fixer-upper of a shed atop Leo’s workshop. She initially finds the level of repairs and cleanup needed daunting and draws herself to sleep as the walls barely keep out the cold night rain. But in the morning the rising sun peeks through the cracks in those walls and she opens the shutters to reveal a glorious view of the Duomo that would make any master jealous.

Arte is as straightforward and earnest as its heroine. Her situation isn’t sugar-coated; most artisans in Florence are insulted by the mere idea of a woman in their line of work. But nor is it punishingly bleak. It simply took one person giving her a chance…her relentlessly working her ass off, but she’s on her way.

Arte’s dogged determination and optimism is both compelling and inspiring. Komatsu Mikako is well-cast for the role. That her character is loosely based on the real-life female artisan Artemisia Gentileschi lends the show a measure of historical legitimacy. I’m looking forward to watching her tough but rewarding journey towards self-actualization and independence.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 08

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This week’s IBO opens with the end of the battle from the perspective of the four-man boarding party, as they quickly infiltrate the Hammerhead’s systems and fill the corridors with combustible gas to ensure no firefights. Throughout their operation, Naze sits calmly on the bridge as his crew reports what’s going on, until Orga & Co are literally in the doorway.

The nonchalance with which both Naze and his crew greets them really says a lot about the Turbines; this intrusion may have been a surprise, but they’re not ones to overreact. And as Naze said, they used an “old method” but executed it perfectly. That opinion demonstrates he’s been around the block, tactically speaking.

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Of course, he’s also been around the block sexually speaking. Not only is the entire crew of the Hammerhead female, but nearly all of them are sleeping with him (the OP updated to reflect this). I wasn’t sure about this at first (the reactions on the Tekkadan reps’ faces are absolutely priceless), but Naze is not an ordinary fellow, and all of the women are with him by choice and are fine with sharing him, so who am I to judge? Even Laffter considers him her “darling”, but has to admit the pilot in Barbatos got her juices flowing, too.

They’re not brainwashed or enslaved, but more like a pride of lions, and only one has a mane. And they know when they’ve seen capable soldiers, even if they’re young and raw. So when Orga and Biscuit ask if the Turbines will not only escort them to Earth, but make Tekkadan a subsidiary of Teiwaz, Naze is open to both ideas. Only making either happens requires a visit to his boss, McMurdo Barriston, and there’s a matter of Kudelia possibly being “property.” Did her father arrange a marriage?

Oh, and Maruba? Naze sends him to the mines. grumpycatgood.jpg.

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With the war postponed for now and both ships en route to Teiwaz headquarters, a ship called the Saisei, the crews busy themselves with training, repairs, R&R, etc. Mika seems a little off to Atra (he only ate half his usual portion), and Orga learns why: Mika thinks he screwed up in the battle with Laffter. No one is as tough on him as he himself is.

Atra also thinks Aina could use some cheering up, so they visit the Turbines’ nursery, which is a ridiculous thing to have aboard a mercenary ship, until you realize that like Tekkadan, the Turbines are far more than a group of comrades. They’re family, who have spilled and mixed blood. Regardless, the little babies delight Aina, who Atra is glad can finally relax a little, at least until the next crisis.

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One of those crises is that Tekkadan is pretty much broke back on Mars, due to the scarcity of lucrative clients with Gjallarhorn looming over them. This means Orga and Biscuit must present Naze with a list of stuff they can sell to make ends meet. Naze couldn’t care less about such trifling stuff, and wonders why Orga didn’t take his original deal.

It’s here where Naze learns Tekkadan is a family like his, and breaking it up isn’t an option. Orga tried to come in on equal terms with the Turbine leader, but at the end of the day he’s still a kid by comparison. That’s not to say Naze wasn’t exactly where Orga is sitting at one point in his life, with a paltry harem of two or three women and a lot of self-doubt he couldn’t show to anyone, but which many could see nonetheless.

With Mika getting so upset about “failing him”, Orga feels the pressure to lead and succeed that much stronger, but Biscuit tells him not to get too bent out of shape.

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Laffter and another Turbine pilot are impressed with how hard both Akihito and Mika are working, but Mika reiterates he can’t do anything else. In the end, two very tight-knit but very different types of couples confer. There’s Naze giving Amida his measure of Tekkadan (the money stuff made his butt hurt), while Orga praises Mika for working hard. Mika says he’s working hard so Orga won’t “ditch” him, but obviously he doesn’t have to worry about that, because they’re family.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 07

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Space may be big, but the shipping lanes aren’t, and it was only a matter of time before Tekkadan got some attention. Only the first ship to confront them since their Gjallarhorn skirmish is the Hammerhead, commanded by Naze Turbine, who works for Teiwaz. They’re not stodgy and militaristic, but rather much more of a Bizarro Tekkadan, right down to the two groups’ eccentric young ace mecha pilots. It also reminds us that CGS were no angels back when they were working for Maruba. They did the jobs they were contracted to do.

I couldn’t really ask for a better adversary at this point: a group of people who under different circumstances I wouldn’t mind rooting for. Naze, like Orga, is a fundamentally pragmatic guy. With the info he currently has, Naze has no reason not to help the connected Maruba recoup his CGS losses. And while the Turbines have probably made lots of compromises to get to where they are, the point is they’re surviving and thriving. They’re a glimpse of a successful, stable Tekkadan no one is hunting.

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Except the Turbines have been charged with hunting Tekkadan. Biscuit thinks their wiggle room, but Orga has to consider all the angles, like losing face or breaking their promise to Aina and Nobliss. So negotiations break down, Turbine’s ace paints her nails and then licks her chops (the Tekkadan’s Isaribi looks kinda like a mecha-shrimp), and Atra battens down the curry and rounds up the potatoes in Zero-G.

In this battle, Orga sends Mika and Akihito out in the Barbatos and Graze, gives Eugene the bridge, then sends Shino down to the hangar. Now, I don’t know Shino so well, so I figured his time was going to be up., but the show turned out to be far cleverer than that. There were also no more strange shots of Fumitan; perhaps that’s just her natural expression to glare at people.

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Atra and Aina, who aren’t so great at the combat, make a connection during the chaos of battle, as Atra helps Aina get her spacesuit on properly and keep her company. Out in space, meanwhile, IBO finally introduces us to some female pilots in Amida and Lafter, who aren’t just among the Turbines’ pilots; they’re the best, and don’t let anyone forget it.

After six weeks of Atra and Aina not having that much to do (and filling into “traditional” roles of cook, teacher, and emotional support), I can’t underscore enough how glad I am the show now has women in powerful warrior roles. And Atra and Aina aren’t in their roles because they’re not men, but because they’re not soldiers; an important distinction.

Mika’s ancient Gundam is realistically having software bugs, and is absolutely no match for Lafter’s super-fast customized-to-the-hilt rig, which fits her like a glove. Mika has to give everything he’s got not to be overwhelmed, while not forgetting he has to protect the Isaribi from the Hammerhead. Akihito has similar problems with Amida and her wingman Azee, but holds his own by sheer will, determination, and courage in the fact of unfair odds.

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Throughout the battle, Naze and Amida keep on ongoing narrative of the Turbines being the adults who must do their duty and teach the Tekkadan rapscallions a lesson. To that end, they feign being impressed when Tekkadan executes by-the-book tactics, and dismiss their reckless mecha combat as juvenile and undisciplined. Basically, while they’re not nearly as incompetent as any Gjallarhorn officer not called Fareed, Naze and the Turbines are still underestimating these kids. Obviously, that’s a running theme.

In fact, Orga, Biscuit, and Eugene use those by-the-book tactics in order to lull the Turbines into a false sense of strategic superiority. When the Isaribi fires missiles, the Hammerhead shoots them down, creating a smokescreen. But the Isaribi doesn’t escape; the screen is used to surprise the Hammerhead when Eugene plots a near collision course, stealthily dropping an Orga-led boarding party that cripples the Turbines from the inside.

To his credit, Naze doesn’t fume or pull his hair out when he realizes he’s been outmaneuvered. Instead, like Fareed, he seems glad to have a worthy opponent to face off against. Tekkadan exceeded his expectations, and he can’t help but smile about it.

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Out in the void, things get more and more intense, and if your adrenaline wasn’t pumping for that Isaribi maneuver through the smoke, Mika and Akihito’s increasingly brutal, metal-crunching duels do the trick. Mika manages to cast a line out and tether himself to Lafter’s mecha, and she tries to use the fact his old bucket lacks inertial dampers to let the g’s take care of him for her. But Mika not only endures, and lets her slam him into an asteroid: he uses his spear to anchor himself and pull her back to him.

Similarly, Akihito, who Amida says with semi-sarcastic respect fights like he has “muscle for brains” doesn’t give up, despite his mechanical shortfalls and the fact the enemy has numbers on him. He keeps fighting because he told Mika he’d take care of it, so he will. Even so, while Mika got the upper hand on Lafter and is poised to finish her, Amida seems ready to close her jaws on Akihito…

…Then Orga and Naze suddenly order a cease-fire to their respective fighters. Just like that, the battle is over, and for once, it’s the stopping of a battle I wanted to stop. I didn’t want Lafter or Akihito to buy the farm so soon, and I didn’t want Tekkadan and the Turbines stacking up blood-grudges that would prevent future cooperation.

I look forward to seeing not only how Orga, Biscuit and/or Aina deal with Naze and Amida now that the guns have been lowered and cooler heads have prevailed, but hope Mika gets to interact with his counterpart Lafter, who seems to share his love of the uncomplicated. They already had their first dance, after all.

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Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai – 02

Yozoro declares the best way for the Neighbors Club to start making friends is with games, namely, PSP games that require cooperation and teamwork. The three members enter the world of the RPG-like game, and Yozoro and Sena spending most of the time killing each other. They move on to girlges, and Sena becomes obsessed with the love interests therein. Alas, after countless hours of gameplay, they club is stuck on three members.

This episode, with an air of The World God Only Knows, decided to literally immerse the characters into the worlds of the games they were playing. It got them out of the boring clubroom and out of their ordinary uniforms, but their personalities stayed the same. Even stranger – and played totally straight – was a scene where Sena is dressed as the male protagonist, and Kodaka – in drag, with a hairpin – counsels her.

It’s funny moments like that, along with the frequent (but not annoyingly so), spirited verbal jousting, that let this seemingly wrote harem comedy rise above itself. While this episode wasn’t quite as impressive as the first, it was still surprisingly good. You’d never think a show with such an unbelievably bad opening sequence would settle down into something that’s actually decent, but it does. We also liked how the series didn’t introduce anyone new yet…giving the core trio time to gel.


Rating: 3