Owari no Seraph: Nagoya Kessen-hen – 01 (First Impressions)

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“It’s no longer clear who’s on your side and who’s not.”

That line by Shinoa reflects the main theme of this new episode of Owari no Seraph, and possibly of the season to come. On the battlefield, it was humans vs. vampires. Off it, all bets are off. Shinoa is worried Guren is using Yu for some dark purpose; Guren is worried about Yu switching sides when the Hiiragis summon him for an interview; the powerful Hiiragis, who essentially run the human resistance against vampiredom, have clearly been spooked by recent events, and suspect spies are in their midst.

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Meanwhile, Yu has pretty much fully recovered form his battle wounds, Shinoa is her usual, artificially bubbly and chipper self around him, always deflecting more serious matters…until it comes to the Hiiragis. She warns Yu that they’re scary. Guren makes an appeal to Yu’s loyalty to his family, which now consists of his unit. Mitsu warns Yu that they’re terrifying. 

But Mitsu also laments that she was promoted despite not doing anything of note on the battlefield. The New Yu who was born last season comes out here, expressing his support for her promotion rather than mocking her family connections. A lot of this show revolves around things the protagonist has little or no idea of, and the fact both Shinoa and Mitsu come from big families escaped him all this time, and in any case wouldn’t have affected their status as his family.

Still, even if she’s half-joking in deadpan, it’s a little unsettling for Shinoa to accuse Mitsu of ratting Yu out in exchange for that promotion.

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When Yu arrives at the Hiiragi “interview”, he first has to dispose of a captive vampire, then cross swords with both Hiiragi Kureto and Hiiragi Shinya. Kureto in particular isn’t all that pleased with Yu flaunting his ignorance, both of who Kureto is, and how much he still has to learn about Cursed Gear.

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But the trio of Hiiragi’s in that office aren’t half as scary as the ones who enter a dark room with a one-way mirror, revealing Shiho and Yoichi, bound and beaten. Kureto is convinced Yu is a vampire spy, and if he can’t convince him otherwise, he’s going to kill the two them. It’s a taut, tense scene, one in which the classic shonen hero is put on trial by the bureaucracy that has been in the shadows all along.

Yu doesn’t say anything particularly convincing, but the answers he does give help Kureto figure out for himself that Yu was rescued by Guren for a purpose, which must have something to do with the fact Yu was a human experimentation subject for the Hyakuya vampires. Yu dismisses all this as some bullshit feud between Kureto and Guren.

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When Yu finally emerges with Shiho and Yoichi to a relieved Mitsu and Shinoa, the camera pans around to reveal Guren is there too, only far away. The distance signified to me the lack of trust everyone in the unit has for him right now. But he admits he rescued Yu because he had value, and he says all the other right things to keep Yu on his side, for now.

As for Mika, who it seems will always be on Yu’s side if he has any say in the matter, is dealing with blood withdrawal, but refuses a human child Ferid offers as food to arrest his aging. This scene seemed to me a way to again portray Ferid as an awful guy, while the possibility exists he’s working with Guren—perhaps the very vampire spy the Hiiragis are looking for—against the vampire leadership.

The Hiiragis are Guren and Ferid’s enemy. Tepes is Guren and Ferid’s enemy. So are they operating in an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” mode? Whatever the case may be, Yu, Shinoa & Co. will clearly need to watch their backs vigilantly this season, and not just against vampires.

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GATE – 08

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GATE benefits from a major change of scenery, as suddenly its the Special Regioners who are the fish out of water, emerging from the gate into a wondorous, perplexing, and at times frightening world of skyscrapers, subways, and ramen.

Pina and her blonde comrade are whisked off to negotiates with envoys of the prime minister, while Itami, Kuribayashi, Rory, Lelei and Tuka prepare to present their testimony before the Diet. They’re escorted by a shifty-looking guy who looks like he might be trouble, but turns out to be not that bad a guy after all.

He’s done his homework on Itami, and it’s not altogether surprising to hear he’s always been a bit of a lazy fellow. But not only did his laid back attitude get him into Ranger training—which he passed, to Kuribayashi’s shock—he’s also  a member of the “S” special forces, outraging her even more.

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The continued inflation of Itami’s badassdom aside, the Diet session, broadcasted live to the whole country, starts off with a very clearly anti-JSDF Diet member hoping to use the session to further her agenda and mar the SDF’s reputation. She’s actually the worst part of the episode, because the show is so transparently contemptuous of her and her political positions.

As one of the show’s first depictions of an anti-military Japanese politician, she comes off as shrill, ignorant, and unreasonable.  That being said, it’s still fun to watch the three Special Regioners deal with her, particularly Rory. And the response of the public through social media and the like also added to the spectacle. And she’s certainly not wrong in saying while a fourth of the refugees were killed by the Fire Dragon, the SDF saved the other three fourths.

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The grilling doesn’t last that long—curiously, only the female Diet member asked the Special Regioners any questions—and Pina’s conference with the Japanese envoys also goes well. From there, the group leaves on a bus, only the bus is a decoy, as they end up taking the subway, and when the subway closes down, someone tries to steal Rory’s scythe only to be crushed by it, being utterly unable to lift it.

The complex journey is a means of throwing off those elements who received leaked information about the Regioners’ movements, and while the gang never seems to be in that much trouble, the fact all these modern modes of transportation almost send Rory into a panic attack makes it clear the ordeal isn’t a mere cakewalk.

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When Itami’s grizzled escort throws out his back trying to pick up Rory’s scythe (watching her twirling it with ease as he’s carted off is, I’ll admit, pretty funny), Itami leads everyone to the home of his ex-wife, who is living in an apartment with dwindling utilities, and rejoices at the arrival of hot food. Lazy, Otaku, Ranger, S, ex-husband: we just keep learning new things about Itami.

And to be honest, I’d much rather the story stick to him, his various relations and his Special Region friends, then dive to far into the larger world affairs. Mercifully, we only see glimpses of the world leaders as they watched the Diet session. But the quasi chase the gang underwent is a reminder they’ve got to watch their backs, perhaps more so in Japan than in the other world.

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Koufuku Graffiti – 07

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Shiina’s family is always given way too much saury (AKA mackerel pike), leading to an infestation of cats. To prevent that, she proposes a cookout at her estate to cook the fish off. Ryou and Kirin agree immediately. But there’ll be a catch this time: Ryou won’t be doing any of the cooking or cleaning. She’s done enough; now it’s time for the other two to cook and clean for her.

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Their sensei in this enterprise is Tsuyuko, who is apparently an iron chef-caliber culinary master who just happens to be content as the maid of a wealthy family. Grilling saury is about as basic as it gets, which means even the slightest mistake in preparation and cooking is exposed.

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Tsuyuko is a firm yet patient teacher, showing Kirin and Shiina the simple yet very exacting way of seasoning and scoring the fish, and the importance of not making eye contact, even if the fresh fish’s eyes are mesmorizingly clear and sparkling.

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Throughout their trials, Ryou is forced to simply hang back and watch. Giving up control isn’t easy, but not because Ryou thinks the others won’t do as good a job. It’s more a matter of her having always either cooked for herself or others since her grandma passed away. It’s become a habit, and any habit is hard to suddenly break, but she does her best not to interfere.

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The finished product Kirin and Shiina present her with—a splendidly grilled fish with crispy salty skin and fluffy, succulent flesh—is a revelation for Ryou. She knew food tasted better when sharing it with others, but thanks to her friends, now she knows that having food cooked for you makes it taste even better…in most cases.

Some people, of course, just flat-out can’t cook, but lucky for her Kirin and Shiina aren’t bad. Now that she’s a recipient of their cooking, she now knows firsthand the joy her cooking has brought them, inspiring them to repay her.

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Naturally, later that night Ryou can’t help using some of the leftover saury in a dish with ginger, bamboo shoot and rice. The show thus far has been good at showing how the leftovers of one meal can lead to another, totally different second meal.

Kirin wants to cook, but so does Ryou, so they compromise and share the work, making it that much more fun and the food that much tastier, because a meal prepared together is the best of both worlds. And now I must keep my eyes peeled for some saury at my local Asian grocery.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 29

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So now we know the school administrators (if there even are any) are so cheap, the leave the roof repairs to Tenchi. Tenchi does his best, but he’s no roofer. Meanwhile, down below his home harem prepares a barbecue to cheer him up.

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Normally no non-students are allowed on dorm grounds under any circumstances, but Sasami’s over-the-shoulder smile is enough to melt Touri’s heart, and allows the incursion.

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It’s not just a barbecue for Tenchi, but for everyone (presumably there are no vegetarians among the main cast), even the science club, who happens upon the party. Yuki tries to graciously retreat, not wanting to start another fight but Momo invites them to join them; the more the merrier. Not to mention Aoi can’t resist the smell of the meat, nor can Beni pass up the opportunity to duel with Ryouko — with meat (and without collateral damage) this time.

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It’s another gesture that speaks to Momo’s inherent decency, diplomatic skills, and desire not to be alone like she once was in the past. She never wanted war with the science club. It’s a lightweight but feel-good episode, and as is usually the case, the grilling meat made my mouth water.

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