BokuBen – 03 – Acts of Defiance

In direct and efficient 78-second cold open, Yuiga’s mission is suddenly made tougher: Furuhashi and Ogata must receive an average score or higher on the upcoming midterms. Both the headmaster and their former tutor (pink hair) believe its in the best general interest to steer the girls towards the fields of study in which they excel, believing their desire to study elsewhere frivolous.

The ex-tutor even considers it negligent not to press more strongly for the girls to get in their lane. The adults aren’t factoring Furuhashi or Ogata’s dreams or happiness into the equation. But Yuiga has been here before himself, and so he’s uniquely equipped to empathize with and fully support them in their bold endeavor to forge their own paths based on their passions, not their natural gifts.

Of course, only Furuhashi and Ogata overhear the headmaster and tutor, and now feel the pressure to succeed lest another tutor—and their favorite by far—be relieved of his duties (though I can’t imagine that would have stopped him from tutoring them anyway). Takemoto wonders why they look so down; she can sense the sudden heightened pressure now on their shoulders, and Ogata’s commitment to get results.

Now that all parties (save Takemoto) are aware of the raised bar for those results, Ogata, whose Japanese midterms come first, asks Yuiga to come to her house to supervise her studying. The fact she’s so comfortable not only inviting him, but also interacting with him at her family’s udon restaurant, speaks to the evolution of their relationship from adversarial and suspicious to something far more like a real friendship.

Meanwhile Yuiga isn’t just doing this so he’ll get a free ride; he has a philosophical horse in this race, plus he just likes these girls and wants to help if he can…not to mention Ogata looks fantastic in her restaurant outfit. He doesn’t know he’ll be fired if they fail, so Ogata simply asks the rhetorical question of what will happen if she fails. His answer—they’ll just keep studying for the next test—is comforting…as is his patting of her head.

When the day of the test comes, Ogata is immediately fearful when she sees parts of the test are areas she didn’t study as thoroughly, but resolves to do her best, and lo and behold, she scores an above-class-average 71, to her own bewilderment and Yuiga and Takemoto’s delight. Ogata refrains from mentioning out loud that a little bit of dumb luck factored into that score, but that’s just another reason to keep at it.

That means it’s up to Furuhashi. Only problem is, she has a cough and a high fever. Yuiga suggests she delay and take the make-up test; she declines, as it would mean an automatic 20% deduction in score (which hardly seems fair). To prepare, she invites Yuiga and Takemoto to her house…which turns out to be huge, with a genkan with more square footage than Yuiga’s living room.

Being unaccustomed to visiting female classmates at home, Yuiga takes Furuhashi’s “just come on in” too literally and walks in when she’s topless. Yuiga realizes the error of his ways and stays out until needed.

Just like he saw Ogata in a new light at her home, Yuiga learns something new about his old pal Takemoto: she’s a superb cook. When he likens her appearance to that a new wife, Takemoto’s imagination conjures a scene of domestic bliss between her and a salaryman Yuiga.

Turns out Takemoto was right: some hot food and rest were just what Furuhashi needed, and she feels ready for the midterms. Like Ogata, she voices her hope that he’ll keep tutoring her, and that she trusts she’ll reach her dreams if she sticks with him. Yuiga is flattered, but urges Furuhashi, whos pajamas a a little see-through, return to bed.

Furuhashi manages a score higher than average as well, impressing the headmaster and further irking the former tutor. Yuiga and the three girls celebrate at a family restaurant. Yuiga may not know that his tutoring job and VIP consideration was just saved.

With Ogata and Furuhashi out of the woods, the second half of the episode focuses on Takemoto Uruka, and IMO reinforces her standing as Best Girl. Her swim club friends, impatient with her pureness and lack of progress in nabbing Yuiga, take matters into their own hands by taking her to a hip clothier and dressing her up all adorable-like; a way in which she can’t help but feel extremely self-conscious.

In this suddenly out-of-sorts state achieved by her caring friends, Takemoto has no idea how she’d act around Yuiga, but immediately gets her chance as the two cross paths in town. Since she’s right next to the bookstore, she tells him she’s going to buy some textbooks; he decides to join her, while failing to remark on her very different and extremely cute new look.

While initially weary, Takemoto soon finds comfort and joy in being so close to Yuiga; feeling the warmth of his shoulder and feeling his breath in her ear as he talks. A little boy points at them and declares them a couple, and when a kid does that you know you look like one.

Outside the store, they come across a store selling an accessory Yuiga’s sister wants; but the competition to win it is couples-only. Sensing another opportunity, Takemoto seizes Yuiga by the arm and leads the way.

The competition turns out to be a “princess carry” endurance contest, and Takemoto is worried she’s too heavy because she’s recently gained a lot of muscle in swim club. She soon tears up about the prospect of being too heavy for Yuiga, but he interprets those tears as abject embarrassment over having to be held by him, and he commits himself to winning the contest, which they do.

Takemoto is happy beyond words. Her friends dressed her up cute so she’d more easily “attack” Yuiga, but the fact is she’s always wanted to be a princess; people have just noted her athleticism and placed her in the “tomboy” mold, and inertia has kept her there.

It was immensely fun to watch Takemoto’s girly side openly expressed. She was the third of three girls this week defiantly moving against the grain set for them by others, and her resulting glee really emanated through the screen. She may not have confessed—and perhaps never will!—but spending a day as a couple was at least something, and seemingly enough for her for now.

Advertisements

Shokugeki no Souma – 07

sns71

Let’s face it: We all knew exactly how this would end. For all her bluster, trash-talking, attempts at mind games, and peerless A5 Wagyu Beef, Nikumi was going to loooooose. Souma wasn’t getting expelled, and the club he stood for wasn’t going to be shut down. The haters were going to hate. Souma just cooked; and outcooked Nikumi on the only field that matters: the field of a don battle.

sns72

Her precious meat may be singular, and she may have formidable skill, flair, and grace in butchering, searing, roasting and slicing said meat (Erina compares her to a pianist, equal parts strength and delicacy). To the show’s credit, Nikumi IS a phenomenal chef, especially with meat.

But while here meat is fresh and beautiful and marbled six ways from Sunday, she’s been spoiled by it. Her arrogance and refusal to take Souma seriously cost her dearly, though you can’t blame her when Souma whips out discount half-off discount sirloin from the supermarket, seemingly spitting on the entire Shokugeki institution.

sns73

Her meat is so lovely, laid out like a flower atop garlic rice, Nikumi tries to make it the star of the don, litterally sitting on top like oil on top of water. The rice is just okay, but the dish suffers in its essential don-ness, or cohesiveness, because the meat clobbers everything else in that bowl. The judges are impressed by the ingredients and preparation, as they should be, and are highly skeptical Souma’s dish is even worth trying.

sns74

But this is Souma we’re talking about: not only is he sneaky as all hell when it comes to how he’s going to make something out of nothing, but that particular talent works far more in his favor than Nikumi’s mad eat skillz. From the pickled ginger in the rice to the onions sauteed in juices and wine, to the thick yet delicate sauce tickled with burnt soy, all the components of the dish work together to elevate one another out of the supermarket and into the stomachs of the venerable judges, who literally can’t stop eating it and are sad when it’s gone.

sns75

And that’s why Souma wins the don battle: his don beat Nikumi because it didn’t put on airs and intimidate you with its pedigree, it merely welcomed you to eat as much of it as you wanted. The judges didn’t even finish Nikumi’s rice, nor could she have bumped it up with beef, because she’s already maxed out with the A5 on top, and would have been left with competing flavors. Her ingredient saved her from total embarrassment, but she was clearly out of her element here.

sns76

Souma’s other knack is for neither looking up or down at people, but looking straight at them as an equal. To this end, he prepared a bowl for Nikumi as well (something she didn’t do for him), and one bite of the welcoming don transports her to the day her dad ripped her teddy and told her as a Mika woman she could not be ladylike, but must be strong and aggressive to succeed in life. Nikumi hadn’t thought of that day in years, or the pain of leaving her girly side behind, but Souma’s don took her there.

sns77

Far from a sore winner or a gloater, Souma not only fed her after a tough battle, but complimented her nickname when spelled in hiragana. A combination of the shock of a defeat she didn’t think possible (and all the consequences that come with it), and Souma’s basic kindness and friendliness—matching the personality of his don—leads to her becoming all flustered and smitten with him.

Whether Souma intended for her to assume he was joining the Don RS to burn her, the point is you don’t run out of the arena until you figure out what’s really going to happen: She’s to report to the Don RS, which she dutifully does, trying to look cute for Souma, only to find that he never had any intention of joining himself; it’s just her and the hair guy.

Nikumi is thus humanized, and thankfully, their battle didn’t have any lame sabotage or cheating. Both played by the rules, and Souma beat Nikumi fair and square. Watching Erina, Megumi and the other Polars watch and react to the battle added to the stakes. Even the cute, two-faced MC was a nice touch. All in all, great first Shokugeki. I look forward to more.

9_brav2

P.S. Yup, That’s Christina next to that 9, indicating yours truly will be handling most Shokugeki no Souma reviews henceforth. Now I just wished he’d cook some of this stuff for me. —Hannah

Majimoji Rurumo – 05

maji61

This week MMR keeps things simple with a pleasant, nice-looking “day in the life” episode with a “simple task becomes complex adventure” story. By now Rurumo’s general incompetence has been well-established, but the fact she was similarly incompetent in the magical world leads me to believe perhaps she’s developmentally disabled in some way.

maji62

Nah, I’m just kiddin’! She’s just clumsy and forgetful of details that always turn out to be crucial. But this week she has an urgent desire to complete the task Kouta’s mother assigned her: to deliver a parcel to Kouta, who is at his grandma’s doing farm work. But Rurumo doesn’t get off to an auspicious start, getting lost and mistaking postage stamps for train tickets.

magi63

Along the way she meets a couple of Kouta’s friends who are both into her, but she doesn’t remember who they are, a nice meta dig on their general blahness as characters. I also like she did remember something Kouta told her about saying “cosplay” when in doubt, as it gets her out of trouble with a “busty cop.”

maji64

She does eventually end up in the village where Kouta is, but follows the map wrong and ends up lost in a beautiful field of sunflowers. Chiro, who had accompanied her and left her to her own devices (this is her mission, after all) decides enough is enough, and locates Kouta. That’s when we learn all of Rurumo’s work is to get a lousy wooden smartphone case to him so he can impress his cousin’s pretty friend Yuki.

maji65

As a testament to his devotion to Rurumo, Kouta’s own silly mission falls by the wayside when he hears she’s gotten lost. She doesn’t stay lost long, as when he and Chiro return to the sunflower field, Rurumos’ raiment has accidentally magicked into a massive hat-shaped tree. Fortunately, Rurumo herself did not merge with the plant, as Chiro feared, and Kouta doesn’t have to expend any life tickets.

maji66

For her trouble, Kouta totally strikes out with Yuki, but as thanks for completing her mission, he prepares and old-fashioned country bath for her, to soothe her bones after so much running around and falling down. After that, she dons a yukata (not sure how she got it on properly) and joins the others for some summer fireworks, and Kouta pats her head, so all’s well that ends well.

7_mag

Sword Art Online II – 05

sao52

Ah, Kirito…so good with a sword and at dodging bullets…not so good at avoiding unfortunate situations. To whit: he follows Sinon into the girl’s locker room, forgetting he’s a guy. She’s already in her underwear, so all he can do is tell her the truth and apologize right then and there. Perhaps not undeservedly, Sinon sours on him at once.

sao53

She’s mad not just because he misrepresented himself and got a free show, but every bit as much (if not more) because she let herself get fooled; let herself believe she’d finally met another strong girl in GGO; someone she could trust. While it wasn’t Kirito’s intention, he did make a fool of her, and that’s not something she’ll easily forgive.

saoii54

Still, even before the revelation, Sinon warned Kirito that she wouldn’t go easy on him if they meet in the finals; there can one be one BoB champion, after all. Now considering him her enemy, she makes him promise to meet her there so she can personally teach him “the taste of the bullet that means defeat.”

saoii55

It’s a harsh position, but like I said, Kirito made her remember how much stronger she needs to become. Meanwhile, Sinon, while declaring she’ll “beat all the strong ones” with a slightly twisted smirk on her face, reminds Kirito of Death Gun, the whole reason he’s here. He’ll know for sure when he gets to fight her who she is, but first he’ll have to win five battles to reach the finals.

sao55a

The first battle, set in an ancient ruin at dusk, is a bit hairy at first until Kirito catches on to the way GGO informs you of bullet trajectories. He dodges his opponent’s bullets with acrobatics, speed, and his light sword, which he uses to run him through. One down, four to go. It’s tiring, but it’s doable.

saoii56

Then, back in the staging area, where Shinkawa Kyouji (our candidate for Death Gun), is watching Sinon fight on the monitors, Death Gun himself suddenly sidles up to Kirito, asking if he’s “the real thing.” Kirito gets the vibe from the guy that they know each other, and his tattoo confirms it: he’s a fellow SAO survivor and former member of PK guild Laughing Coffin.

saoii57

It’s not surprising that Kirito wouldn’t be the only SAO player in GGO, and that some of those other players might not be all right in the head. Since Kirito was a thorn in Coffin’s side, there’s no doubt at this point that he is now on his list of strong ones to eliminate. So much for a low profile!

8_brav

Majimoji Rurumo – 04

maji40

Just as I was complimenting MMR’s compact cast, this episode introduces three new characters, the girls of the disciplinary committee. It’s not as bad as all that, though; two of the three are little more than background, while the third, Inoue Sumiko, turns out to be a lot more interesting than the cliched imperious school busybody constantly adjusting her glasses.

maji44

Don’t get me wrong: she is bossy and domineering, at school at least (though I didn’t notice an excessive amount of glasses-straightening); quite possibly to the point of overstepping her official bounds with regards to confiscating and destroying contraband ero literature, of which Kouta is known school-wide as a prolific wheeler and dealer. But here’s the thing: she’s not being a heel simply for being a heel’s sake—this is personal for her.

maji43

Drawn far more straight, sturdy, and angular than the girls regarded as “hotties” in previous episodes, it’s made clear by several trips into Sumiko’s head that she harbors a deep resentment towards her peers, who never regarded her as a girl. None of the boys would even flip her skirt—once a source of pride, now fuel for her high school angst. But there was one boy who did flip her skirt, and isn’t shy about regarding her for being her: and that boy was Kouta.

maji45

That’s right: in school they’re arch-nemeses, but in the real world their mothers are friends. They go way back. It would seem they live close by. If their families were more traditional, they may even have been betrothed to be wed by now. It occurs that were Rurumo not in Kouta’s picture, Sumiko would be the primary female interest in his life. Kouta’s tawdry rep precludes them appearing to get along in school, but they seem to get along just fine on the outside.

maji46

By “getting along” I mean Kouta can earnestly compliment Sumiko’s cute clothes when she delivers cake to his house; she can put on Rurumo’s pair of “Glasses of Misfortune” and cling to him when rats appear (it was frogs for Rurumo), and then he can chase her down the street during which she gets drenched by various water sources. She may call him a pervert, but he’s her pervert. As for Sumiko herself, she was a pleasant surprise.

maji47

7_mag

Stray Observations:

  • Rurumo got the short shrift this week…and was almost done in by frogs!
  • Chiro can transform into a human girl. Not sure why, but it was the first time in 25 years that she did it, and she did seem to revel in it. Could come in handy later.
  • Again Kouta uses his magic selflessly…or at least semi-selflessly, as he can’t bear to have to report back to his buds that all of their accumulated treasures were cast into the incinerator.
  • I kinda want Kouta to ask Sumiko out (or vice versa).

Sword Art Online II – 04

saoii41

After three weeks of setting the stage, Kirito is finally in Gun Gale Online…and he looks like a friggin’ girl! Though he isn’t a girl in the places that count, his clothes hide that fact. The extremely low female player population of GGO means he sticks out like a sore thumb, and I like how uncomfortable being ogled makes him. HA! Now you know how all your many lady friends feel, KK!

saoii42

His looks work in his favor when he runs into Sinon, who’d likely be a lot more standoffish if he was a guy, even the willowy Kirito of ALO or SAO. As it is, she’s glad to be hanging out and talking with another girl, considering she has no friends of any gender in the real world. Their walk to the gun store gives us a better look at GGO’s whimsical cyberpunk capital. At the store she unleashes a hail of gun geekery on Kirito…but with a thin wallet his choices are limited.

saoii43a

Enter Untouchable!, a goofy minigame within GGO that’s deceptively primitive but requires that you anticipate the animatronic gunman’s bullet trajectories. Most people just try to dodge them when their HUDs warn them, but he inevitably gets them. Kirito takes the game on and clears it easily, netting him a cool 300K and the dropped jaws of Sinon and everyone else who watched.

saoii44

Then he goes and blows half of it on…well, there isn’t an easier way to say this, so I’ll just say it….on Mace Windu’s lightsaber. The darn thing has the exact same on-off swooshing and woom-woom sounds. I’m guessing these sound effects, originally created by Ben Burtt, are used under some kind of license. At any rate, it’s quite fitting that Kirito is bringing a sword to a gun fight. Stick with what you know!

saoii45

As for guns, he knows nothing, but Sinon is a walking Gunipedia and is willing and happy to help him out. When they lose track of time and have only ten minutes to get to the Governor’s office to register for the Ballet of Bullets, Kirito shows off his racing game skills, giving Sinon an exhilarating 3-wheeled buggy ride. We’ll see what she thinks of him when she finds out he’s a guy, but for now, it’s all smiles and figurative sunshine.

8_brav