Railgun T Episode 13 Delayed Indefinitely (Updating)

Bummer…

Who’s going to step up and stop the out-of-control Mikoto from becoming a supernova (or white dwarf)? Who is going to punch Gensei in his smug cyborg face and foil his plans? Will Kuroko ever get her memories of onee-sama back?

Uh…dunno. We’re seemingly almost at the end of what has so far been the best Toaru arc yet (only five chapters remain to be adapted, apparently), but this week’s episode has been postponed.

UPDATE: Episode 13 will air May 1. We’ll have a review soon after we’ve watched it!

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 12 – A Star is (Being) Born

Misaki hoped that Touma would be able to keep Mikoto under some measure of control with his Imagine Breaker, but that possibility went south almost immediately. Touma finds himself staring down an inability to do anything other than slow Mikoto down a little, and even that largely depends on properly utilizing Gunha’s One Punch Man-style strength.

Meanwhile, Misaki shadows Gensei until she can’t conceal herself anymore, and learns he’s using Multiskill to borrow powers from espers he’s “acquired” (i.e. abducted). He needs the code embedded in her brain (and located nowhere else) in order to release the limiter on Exterior, allowing him to control Mikoto better.

Gensei also deduces that around the halfway point of her transformation to Level 6, she’ll attain other-dimensional entity status. She’ll touch godhood for only an instant, then “come apart” as an individual. And like a dying star, she’ll either end up a withering white dwarf or an explosive supernova—in either case it’s probably curtains for Academy City.

Misaki believes the fact she’s on her home turf, a place full of traps she control, gives her an edge, but it’s not long before Gensei pins her shirt to the wall with ice crystals. Luckily he misses her vitals (and incidentally, her body), but his ability to manipulate air means he can remove all the air from her immediate vicinity, and choke the code out of her.

Fortunately for Misaki, Ginsei’s penchant for theatricality and tendency to get carried away works to her advantage, as she sacrifices a bit of her shirt to slip away while he’s lost in momentary megalomaniacal rapture. A recurring gag throughout the ensuing cat-and-mouse chase is that the un-athletic Misaki is running at, shall we say…a leisurely pace? More moseying than running, really. Just a momentous little nugget of continuity, that.

Meanwhile, Kuroko continues her search for puppetmaster Kozaku Mitori, as she systematically deprives the puppet of sight (destroying the auxiliary camera) and sound (using anti-eavesdropping devices to nullify its echolocation). Her secret agent gadgets and ability to teleport keep Kuroko safe, right up until Ruiko and Uiharu find the building where Mitori is holed up.

Once in that building’s lobby, Kuroko screws up by not assuming Mitori could have a Mk.1 Eyeball on her. She gets grazed in the side and a deep cut to the arm, but she’s still standing, while Uiharu has trained all surveillance cameras on the building, so there’s no escape for Mitori. That’s when Kuroko starts to feel that something is off…is this just an elaborate exercise to keep her busy and out of the way? Is there still something else going on?

Back at Exterior HQ Misaki does her very best to stay one step ahead of Gensei, but while she’s an extremely shrewd and capable (if physically slow) chess player, she’s hamstrung by a much weaker poker game. With his superior years and experience, Gensei can sense when the tables are about to be turned against him through Misaki’s body language, and thus formulate a quick counter.

Misaki’s trump card is the “gravitron panels” that appear to use nanotechnology to build structures and supports. Developed both for scaffolding and making shortcuts for Misaki, she employs them to restrain Gensei by the wrist…only for him to painlessly pop his hand off and cackle in response. Not only does he possess a wide range of esper abilities he can use at will, but his body is more machine than man, a result of a long life of near-death incidents.

There’s seemingly nothing left in Misaki’s bag of tricks, and Gensei can sense that too, so he again sucks the very air from her lungs, and uses the resulting mental weakness to steal the limiter codes from her mind. Things look very dire for Misaki—and Kuroko, if she gets injured any worse. More troubling is that unlike Touma with Gunha, neither Misaki nor Kuroko have any backup (other than the latter’s open comm link to Uiharu and Ruiko).

This episode was a great collection of isolated standoffs and chases, but Mikoto doesn’t have a chance of ever returning to her normal adorable self—nor does Academy City have a chance of remaining standing—if there isn’t some kind of consolidation of good guys, and soon. It makes me wonder if there aren’t more players destined to join the fight.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 11 – Team Lightning Round

Berserk Mikoto is no longer in control of her body, while her mind is being invaded and manipulated by Kozaku Mitori, using the Exterior ability Kihara Gensei is sharing with her in exchange for protection. Mitori convinces a very confused Mikoto to attack the Windowless Building, but a lightning blast dozens of times stronger than her normal Railgun doesn’t even scratch it. Gensei estimates Mikoto is only about 2% on her way to Level 6.

Mikoto is thus well and truly not in control of her fate. After an entire season of running around trying to fix things, it’s up to external parties to save her—and, incidentally, Academy City itself. Misaki serves as coordinator. She may have lost Exterior but she still has Mental Out, and uses it to convince Antiskill to evacuate the festival civilians and not interfere, lest needless casualties mount.

Thanks to overhearing Xochitl and Ruiko, Touma is now involved as well, and Misaki helpfully uploads all of the information he needs to be brought up to speed. Even so, all she can tell him is that his Imagine Breaker might cancel Mikoto’s Berserk Mode. The problem is, there’s so much electricity and debris surrounding Mikoto, Touma can’t get close enough to touch her and test that theory.

That’s when Sogiita Gunha, our third Level 5 of the episode, makes his reappearance, saving Touma from being pummeled by a giant ball of amassed stone and metal debris by giving it the ol’ Amazing Punch. Since Misaki never gave him a headdump Gunha’s a little slow on the uptake, but Touma’s Imagine Breaker intrigues him, and he’s clearly excited to punch stuff, especially if it’s for a good cause. His ultimate offense and Touma’s ultimate defense makes for an inspired pairing.

Thanks to support from Uiharu and Ruiko, Kuroko manages to pinpoint Kozaku Mitori’s location. Since Mitori is at least Level 4 it’s an even match on paper, but I wouldn’t bet against Kuroko any day. I actually like how Misaki gave her a headdump but didn’t restore all of her memories, perhaps assuming they’d be a distraction. Nevertheless, Kuroko is energized by the fact Mikoto trusted her with Mama’s safety. She’s practically shining in this episode.

Once Gunha learns that Touma needs to get close…too close to Mikoto in order to attempt to dispel her Berserk, he uses his Punches to clear a path and then tosses Touma like a baseball straight at Mikoto. Touma finds and opening and touches her shoulder, but it only exposes a few square inches of her normal skin, and only for a second before the electrified skin closes up. Gunha then catches Touma in a Princess Hold, which is frikking adorable, but it’s clear they’ll have to keep this up quite a bit to put a dent in Mikoto’s stout defense.

We end with Misaki, who networked with all of the allies we saw this week to get them on the same page, stealthily stalking Gensei. Since Kuroko is taking Mitori on, Gensei would seem to be all on his own, but I don’t believe for a second he doesn’t know he’s being followed, and has more traps in place for when Misaki eventually confronts him.

Hopefully by then others will have made progress with their jobs and can back her up. However things unfold, this is one hell of a start to the final skirmish that will takes us to Railgun T’s halfway point. I’m thoroughly invested in every one of the little mini-battles going on at once. How often can you say that about a show?

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 10 – Goodbye, Dolly

When Misaki and Mikoto hit a major traffic jam, Misaki summons the power of the “Exterior” to brainwash every driver in their path to pull aside, thus clearing a path. It’s clearly a significant effort for Misaki, pushing Mental Out to its limits. From there, we learn about how her ability was developed at the same facility as Prototype, perhaps the first Mikoto clone. Her nickname, “Dolly” is a reference to the first successfully cloned sheep.

Dolly ‘s handlers have been unable to make progress with her ever since her friend “Mi-chan” (heavily implied to have been Kozaku Mitori) went away. The white coats (who distressingly see both Dolly and Misaki as merely test samples to be used and disposed of as needed) conscript Misaki to be Dolly’s new lab-issued friend.

Misaki uses Mental Out to brainwash Dolly into believing she’s Mi-chan. Misaki was just as haughty back then, so she’s initialy feels his whole enterprise to be a hassle…until she becomes fast friends with Dolly. Like the girl who was cloned to create her, Dolly is far more athletic than Misaki, as evidenced by her far superior garbage can aim.

At the same time, Misaki tries to impress upon Dolly the importance of growing into a refined lady—a losing battle she picks up with Mikoto, to a degree. Without even intending to go along with the white coats, Misaki ends up restoring Dolly’s “inner peace”, allowing research on her to continue without emotional anomalies.

More than that, Misaki forms a real emotional bond with Dolly, blushing when Dolly suddenly hugs her—and pointedly smells out the deception. The two are simply playing around until Dolly suddenly collapses, her clone body shutting down.

It’s then, when she reaches her hand out for a distraught Misaki, that Dolly asks her her name. It dawns on Misaki that Dolly knew she wasn’t Mi-chan, but kept the fiction going because she was happy to have a new friend, and grateful to Misaki for being one. Dolly’s death is a gut punch.

The white coats are then frustrated when Misaki is the one in emotional turmoil, as if it never occurred to them she’d have these things called feelings. Call it professional detachment from one’s scientific subjects…but Misaki is human, for chrissakes! Showing no deference to them, Misaki uses her Mental Out on all of them and learns the truth: once they’re done tinkering with her, she’ll meet the same fate as Dolly.

The Exterior project continues, with part of Misaki’s brain removed and cultivated into a huge brain, which serves as a booster for her powers—and which is what she used to part traffic back in the present. It’s also the “DNA Computer” the urban legends site mentioned. By the time she and Mikoto arrive at Exterior, Kihara Gensei’s forces have already infiltrated, forcing Misaki’s associate Keitz to flee to the roof with 10032.

But Misaki is too late: Kihara tunes the giant brain to his own brainwaves, bypassing the need for length registration and enabling him to use Mental Out. He uses it to freeze Keitz, takes his phone, and uses it to trash talk Misaki, revealing that it was he who instructed Kiyama Harumi on how to use Level Upper.

He then removes all of the protection placed on MISAKA 10032, something First Order immediately notices while playing cards with Accelerator in a hospital room. Then Kihara injects a kind of mental virus into 10032, which is instantaneously transmitted to all other Sisters in the network, knocking them all out.

Mikoto arrives on the rooftop just in time for Kihara to trigger her dormant esper powers. She’s revealed to be his main target all along, as he hopes she’ll be the first to achieve a stable Level 6. Several floors below, Misaki no longer has access to Exterior, while Touma manages to track down Saten as she’s exiting the factory with Xochitl.

The main pair of powerful lasses, then, will need some outside help if they’re going to have a chance of escaping Kihara’s clutches. Mikoto looks completely out of control—half-Akira, half-Little Prince—or worse, under Kihara’s control. Will spirited, virtuous youth win out over the greed and contempt of an old man with a Gorbachev birthmark? We shall see…

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 09 – The Thick of It

Mikoto and Misaki take different routes to get to Kihara Gensei, underscoring their very different methods of infiltration. Mikoto can blast her way in with her Railgun, but has to wear a suit and sunglasses as a disguise, but Misaki can stroll right in the front door and simply Mental Out anyone posing a threat, then use them to assist her search.

For all the buildup around the two girls teaming up, we don’t actually see them together as much as I’d expected, and they ultimately don’t have much to do at the facility (more on that later). Instead, the episode checks in on Kuroko and Uiharu’s investigation of Kozaku Mitori, who apparently faked her death at the reform school she was sent after committing acts of terrorism.

And then there’s Ruiko, who makes the mistake of letting Touma of all people borrow her good luck charm for his scavenger hunt! It’s a nice little cameo that is also a way of the show admitting with a shrug that “yeah, the Daihesai Festival doesn’t really matter anymore!” 

Ruiko could’ve used that charm on her impromptu trip to the abandoned liquid metal factory. She had a hunch that it might not be so abandoned after all, and she learns not only are the lights and security doors functioning, but the place is crawling with people probably up to no good.

Soon she’s lost and trapped and bumps into Xochitl (in her latest disguise), who is content to let a foolhardy civilian go unharmed until Kozaku Mitori shows up and demands Ruiko be disposed of after (likely harsh) interrogation.

Instead, Xochitl challenges Kozaku to a fight, condemning her as a traitor working outside the bounds of the Governing Board who basically used MEMBER’s services without the proper paperwork. Mitori decides to retreat rather than risk finding out what weird tricks Xochitl has up her sleeve, and Ruiko is free to go.

Meanwhile, Mikoto and Misaki’s infiltration efforts prove all for naught—if Kihara Gensei was ever in the building, he’s not there now. All they find is an underling disguised as Kihara, with memories that address Misaki by name. As powerful as Misaki’s Mental Out is, Kihara managed to troll her with it! That’s bound to stick in the craw of someone as prideful as Misaki.

Mikoto can only follow, shedding her fetching suit (which fit perfectly somehow!) and piling into another Mental Out Lyft with Misaki as she races to where the real Kihara might be. The old man also mentioned something called Exterior, but Misaki deflects Mikoto’s questions about it in the preview.

Just when I was quietly praising how relatively straightforward and character-driven Railgun T has been compared to its Index cousins, here comes the underworld organizations and their shadowy agents muddling everything up. Even so, characters still shined this week, especially Debonair Mikoto and the near-pathologically curious Ruiko.


Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 08 – Oil and Water

“YOU CAN’T HIDE FROM ME.” “Uhh, I’m not hiding?”

First of all, a heartfelt Arigatou gozaimasu to all producers and creatives involved in the continued production of Railgun T (and heck, all anime) even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t take their efforts for granted, and hope they’re staying safe as they work. If they can’t proceed without putting themselves and/or others at risk, then production must obviously cease.

However, that is not currently the case, and we have finally been blessed with a new episode of Railgun T after two weeks off. It was worth the wait. The previous episode promised a showdown between Mikoto and Misaki, but it ends up being way more of an exchange of info, and thankfully Misaki doesn’t have to be “persuaded” by Mikoto to talk.

“What kind of LUNATIC wears long gloves and thigh-high stockings with a gym uniform?!” “Um…a STYLISH one!

Misaki is revealed not only as a more dimensional antagonist (and she’s undoubtedly hiding something from Mikoto), but someone who, either due to her life experience or ability or both, simply cannot fully trust others to help her out, as Misaka always has. It’s why she never came to Mikoto asking to join forces against Kihara Gensei and Kozaku Mitori.

She can’t read Mikoto’s mind like she can most others, but she does think it was choices by Mikoto, who once trusted everyone blindly, led to the Radio Noise and Level 6 Shift projects. Instead, she kept a chaotic element like Mikoto out of her plans, and made sure her chaotic friends wouldn’t interfere or get into danger.

Nothing like a spot-o-tea to center you…

Of course, even with their minds and memories manipulated, Kuroko, Ruiko and Uiharu are gradually piecing things together. While Mikoto told them to stay put at Judgment, that doesn’t mean Kuroko can’t track down Kozaku Mitori’s file (if any).

Even though Uiharu was unknowingly working at cross purposes, Kuroko and Ruiko are willing to trust her now to use her skills to help out. And even with their memories scrambled, Mikoto in turn trusts all of them. Compare that to Misaki, who bypasses trust altogether in making people into Mental Out minions to do her bidding.

Misaki Shoujo Pose, Meet Misaka Shounen Pose

Incidentally, Mikoto is able to chat with Misaki while the latter is already on her way to Kihara Gensei’s location (and assures Mikoto that neither MISAKA or the other Sisters are in any immediate mortal danger). It’s fun to see how Misaki gets around quietly—by simply Mental Out-ing a random truck driver into an impromptu Lyft.

She even tells Mikoto she can sit this one out if she doesn’t feel right about joining forces now. Of course, there’s absolutely no way Mikoto is turning down a change to “pull the plug” on Kihara. In fact, she rushes ahead so fast, she exposes Misaki’s abject lack of athleticism—something Mikoto hilariously mistakes as being set up. When Misaki chalks her slowness up to having a more mature feminine figure, Mikoto mocks her “shoujo manga” eyes, and the two start bickering like, well, two middle school girls.

The sudden pairing of the two rivals is immediately bursting with charm, comedy, and chemistry. I’m glad that unlike Baba, there’s no cruelty or sadism in her activities. Of course, she could show her ugly side once Kihara is dealt with. But if that’s the case, she’d better be prepared to tango with one pissed-off Railgun.

Shokugeki no Souma – 17

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Zane reviews this week’s Food Wars.

I should have known Souma’s homecoming wouldn’t consist of kicking back and relaxing…or rather kicking back and relaxing the way normal people do on vacation. Though he only intends to “air out” the diner, when classmates and townsfolk see the shop open, they swarm to him, and he’s more than happy to feed them.

Then a nexus of elements conspire to put him in the middle of a shopping district-saving karaage challenge, and he can’t help but put every effort into it. The kid simply doesn’t turn off. Nor does the show’s hunger for heightened tension through competition, no matter what the challenge is.

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His return home also marks the return of his adorable classmate Kurase Mayumi, on the surface one of the show’s plainest and least charismatic characters. Yet in a show replete with colorful, eccentric personalities, Mayu actually stands out due to her relative normal-ness.

She couldn’t be more different than the glamorous, scantily-clad buxom, low-voiced meat-expert Nikumi, who enthusiastically accepts Souma’s call to pay him a visit without question or complaint (and whose T&A have their own proprietary sound effects). I take that back: they’re similar in one very important way: they both like Souma.

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More to the point, they both feel threatened by one another. Nikumi fears the chipmunk-like Mayu is the type of gal Souma goes for; Mayu fears Nikumi is actually Souma’s girlfriend, and is so blown away by her sexiness she forgets they’re in the same grade. Truth be told, I’m a Souma x Megumi shipper and thus not really in this particular fight, but the two make for a fun duo flanking a predictably oblivious Souma.

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The three stop by the wildly popular Mozuya specialty karaage shop that is cleaning up from its primo location in the newly renovated train station shopping arcade. The lady in charge is the volatile, venomously competitive (and hilarious!) Nakamozu Kinu, who isn’t content to just clean up, but also dance on the corpses of the shopping district losers she’s stealing business from. When she learns Souma & Co. are there to scout, she isn’t the slightest bit intimidated, because Mozuya is an award-winning, financially burgeoning karaage giant.

Mozuya reminds me of Chik-Fil-A, a local fast food chain in America that also specializes in chicken. Every store is a well-oiled machine, whether it’s in a mall or a standalone. Every time I go, I’m met with uncommon (to American fast food at least) courtesy and hospitality from an obviously highly-trained and motivated staff, regardless of how busy it is…and it’s always busy.  I’ve made complicated orders for large groups during the lunch rush, and always get the order within a minute or so of placing it. It’s uncanny.

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Chik-Fil-As are, in fact, run so well, it’s almost suspicious, like there’s something sinister at work. And that’s the same vibe I got from Mozuya. Nakamozu certainly has her merciless, sinister side, which thoroughly unsettles foodnorm Mayumi well after they depart. Souma and Nikumi, on the other hand, are used to that kind of tension, and have been through culinary hell together; this is just another challenge to overcome.

But it’s not going to be easy. Mozuya has been perfecting its recipe for years, and though Mayu is a game taste tester, Souma isn’t able to create any test batches of karaage remotely good enough to topple the giant. The ultra-rich and thus out of touch with the real world Nikumi suggests fighting fire with a tactical nuke, AKA her family’s vaunted A5 beef, but her idea of “affordable” is over three times Souma’s price ceiling.

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Even if profits aren’t as important as victory to Nikumi, Souma isn’t just trying to win; he’s trying to revitalize the shopping district. So it’s interesting that it’s Mayumi, a native of the town like Souma, gives him the spark he needs to move forward by suggesting playing to the strengths of the district rather than playing on Mozuya’s turf.

As he works out what he’s going to do, Nakamozu has a call with her restaurant advisor, who happens to be one of the Elite Ten along with Isshiki and Erina. That means if Souma can somehow defeat Mozuya, that will speak volumes to his ability to take on said Elite Ten. Not a bad feat to pull off while on vacation!

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Shokugeki no Souma – 16

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When she doddered down the steps in search of some nosh, the sleep-deprived Megumi could not have imagined she’d end up as one of three judges, alongside Fumio and Isshiki, who would preside over a face-off between former Elite Ten Second Seat Junichirou and Souma. But the father wants to take the pulse of his son’s culinary growth, or lack thereof, and a tiebreaker was needed, and Megumi was around, so she’s a judge.

Knowing how fierce and formidable Junichirou is and how amazing his dinner was last night, Megumi doesn’t think Souma has the slightest chance of winning. And he doesn’t win, and, there’s never any indication that he would. Furthermore, she and the others learn that Souma’s record against his dad (whom he’s faced off against since grade school) is a truly abysmal 0 wins against 489 losses.

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Souma doesn’t worry about winning or losing in the face-off, though. He focuses on making the best dish he can with the requirements given: something that gives one energy for the morning without being too rich or heavy. His apple risotto, infused with apple flavor from juice with fresh raw apples warmed through, is a refreshingly creative dish, no doubt. It puts Snow White Megumi in the valiant arms of Prince Apple, and spurs another welcome appearance from Sexy Fumio, who dances with Isshiki in the lovely flavors.

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Then Junichirou presents his dish, a seemingly disappointing ramen, that turns out to be not nearly as rich and heavy as it looked. On the contrary, the judges can’t stop putting the ramen away, yet are never overwhelmed by the gorging, because all the immensely complex umami flavors are achieved without any meat or fish products, but various iterations of soy, tempeh, mushrooms, kelp, and sake. The dish is so rejuvenating, Isshiki and Megumi transform into little kids, and Fumio reverted to an earlier stage of human evolution!

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In the end, the vote is unanimous, and it isn’t close; Souma is handed loss #490 (which he and his dad both record in little notebooks containing all their face-offs over the years). Souma learns a lesson: he was conservative, minimizing (the chances of not meeting the needs of the judges), while his dad took more risks and made use of his encyclopedic knowledge of world cuisine to surprise and maximize their satisfaction.

Even so, Souma’s dish showed Junichirou that his son had grown to his satisfaction, and he tells him until he loses to him again, he’d better not lose to anyone else. I think that’s fine with Souma: the only chef he’s okay losing to is his dad. Megumi, Isshiki, and Fumio now understand Souma’s toughness and resilience: all those hundreds of losses were also hundreds of lessons doled out by his dad.

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Most of this episode was the face-off, and I appreciated the show going back to a simple old face-off between two cooks after the chaos of the training camp (that still keeps poor Megumi up at night). The dishes were absolutely mouth-watering, and while I probably couldn’t do the ramen justice, I’m going to try out the apple risotto as soon as I have the ingredients amassed.

What else happened? Well, Erina thought she saw Junichirou on the side of the road (probably because she did), but when she gets out of her beautiful BMW E38, he’s not there. It’s a shame she didn’t learn the truth about Souma, but I guess that’s for another time, if ever.

Also, with Junichirou asking Souma to “air out the diner”, and a cut to his hometown where his cute childhood friend (whom he subjected to his peanut butter squid) gazes longingly at said closed diner, it looks like Souma will finally be heading home next week. Looking forward to it.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 15

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Food Wars is back from its week off with a new OD, and new ED, and a new arc. I daresay I missed it, even with all the interesting new Summer shows starting up. The cold open shows Souma’s dad arriving in Tokyo (passing under Hokusai’s Gaifu Kaisei, which also happens to hang above my TV) only to show up in the least likely of places later on: in a photo from the past Erina cherishes so much, she lets the buses leave without her so she can retrieve it from her hotel room.

As luck would have it, she ends up on a long car ride home alone with Souma of all people. As she shoots down his attempts at conversation, she makes it a point to voice her consternation with his past point about learning through failure, as he did with his omelettes. Erina believes that to be an excuse by a weak loser; failure is not an option, no more than it was for “Him” (i.e. Souma’s dad, presumably). You bring perfection to the table every time, or nothing at all.

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It’s a nice moment to see everyone return home to cozy ol’ Polar Star Dormitory, especially when they’re treated to a nice Welcome Home meal. The shock comes from the chef preparing it: Souma’s dad. But the only one who knew he was Souma’s dad was Souma; everyone else knows him as the former second (only to Doujima) seat of Totsuki’s Elite Ten, Saiba Jouichirou. Upon receiving this news, Souma, who never had an inkling of any of this, actually gets frazzled. It’s a rare sight.

Souma’s dad proceeds to wow his dormmates with exotic dishes that express his worldliness and wealth of experiences cooking abroad as a kind of nomadic culinary mercenary. The girls are all but enslaved by the flavors, and when they see what a manly bearing his dad has, they turn to Souma, his son, with optimistically beaming faces. ‘This is what Souma will become’.

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That night Souma helps his dad clean up and they shoot the breeze, the father and son having been apart for so long, there’s likely much to say. Yet no matter what was said, Souma’s perspective on his father changed completely on this otherwise nondescript night. He now knows he’s walking in a shadow at Totsuki, even if the rest of Totsuki doesn’t know of their relation. Jouichirou even makes it clear he didn’t technically graduate from Totsuki, because “things happened.” ‘Things’, I imagine, that included Souma.

All this time, Souma was walking in his father’s footsteps without knowing it, and without anyone else knowing it, except Jouichirou himself. And possibly Doujima. That brings me to Erina: does she know? (Don’t answer that.) Is the reason she’s so hostile to Souma because Jouichirou, whom she idolized, had to withdraw from the “front line” to raise his kid? Is that the failure she speaks of? Or is she as in the dark as practically everyone else, and will be as shocked as all of the Polars when she learns of her long-standing connection to Souma?

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Whatever the case, I like the new dimension given to both Erina and Souma, as we witnessed her flash a nostalgic smile and him suddenly out-of-sorts and unsure of how to take all the new information he’s had dumped on him. Souma’s reason for enrolling at Totsuki was to get his dad to acknowledge him, but now that he knows what a huge big shot his dad is, that feat must feel even more challenging than when he just thought he was going to make his pop proud.

Now it turns out he must face off against his toughest opponent yet—and Jouichirou doesn’t give him any time to relax.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 14

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SnS delivers its second masterpiece in three episodes both by putting Souma further up against the wall than he’s ever been, as his souffle omelettes are falling before customers take them. Meanwhile, Erina and Takumi have already dished out 200 servings. But there’s no conspiracy or sabotage behind Souma’s plight: it’s his fault; he effed up, and now he’s got to figure out a way out of the hole he’s made for himself, with time dwindling.

Another chef who finishes well before him is “Snow White”, whose name we finally learn is Nakiri Alice, Erina’s cousin and life-long rival. What Erina brings to the table with her talent, ability, and knowledge of the classics, Alice is on the cutting edge of molecular gastronomy. My face lit up in glee like a Christmas tree when it was revealed Alice’s “eggs” weren’t just eggs.

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As viewers we have the luxury of checking in on everyone as they near, or struggle to near, 200 servings, but Souma has no time to lose. Erina is frustrated that her gloating fails to reach his ears, as he works out the calculations to how he’ll get to 200. It involves lots of eggs, lots of cream, lots of pans, and lots of burners, and his mastery of all of those things at lightning speed in order to lure all those customers.

He moves on from his failure and starts over, getting enough people to his stand so he can serve omelettes as soon as they’re ready. Once the people try the jiggly, fluffy, bouncy delicacies, they can’t contain their enthusiasm and praise, which attracts even more attention.

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I’m not sure where Souma got all those burners or eggs (the logistics of this camp would seem to hinge upon an “Unlimited Food Works” skill someone at Totsuki possesses), but he manages to reach his target of 200…with two seconds remaining. He also impresses the alumni brass like Doujima, as well as the backhanded compliments and a formal introduction by Alice, who is really mean and cool and adorable and a great foil to Erina and new rival to Souma. She can clearly back up her big talk (and then some), and I look forward to seeing more of her.

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And as it did with Alice’s molecular eggs, the show gives us one more surprise, with Doujima summoning all 600-some survivors thus far into the hotel lobby for a big pep talk about how the unpredictability of the camp is a microcosm of their impending careers as chefs, and how they must learn how to deal with surprises and how to adapt when things don’t go their way.

Just when we thought another challenge was in store, the alumni burst out of the doors with a wait staff to reveal that the final challenge isn’t a challenge, but a meal, prepared by that same alumni. Not only is this a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the ultimate reward to the survivors of the camp, but another complete surprise. It really was a beautiful, heartfelt way to wrap up the arc.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 13

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Despite the very dreamlike imagery, I was pretty convinced for some reason that the training camp was finished and this thirteenth episode, bridging the gap between the first and second halves of this show, would take it easy. That misunderstanding only lasted until we learn Isshiki really was just having a dream.

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The first years have a long way to go: Chef Doujima has arranged a challenge that will surely thin the already thin herds: having to create an innovative breakfast dish using eggs worthy of acknowledgement by a huge cross-section of diverse customers, from the growers and producers of the Totsuki resorts’ foodstuffs, to the resorts’ service staff, all of whom are extremely keen, experienced food critics. They also have to serve 200 servings of their dish—which they have all night to devise and prepare—in order to complete the challenge.

This episode does a good job rendering an incredibly tense and difficult situation being tackled by people who are already exhausted from the day’s challenges. But the intent is clear: the chefs who pass the training camp have to have ample backbone and endurance to go with their talent, taste, resourcefulness, and speed.

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The episode also branches out, affording us dozens of little mini-stories happening to all of the various characters, none of whom are as simple as enemies or friends anymore. Even Erina has multiple facets, and the personification of one of those is a mysterious new character I’ll call “Snow White,” whose looks and air of confidence suggests she’s quite a chef to be reckoned with. Naturally, Souma treats her like he’d treat anyone else: with courtesy, friendliness, and respect, irregardless of her hidden motives for him.

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For the second straight episode, Food Wars doesn’t simply focus on Souma. Everyone gets a chance to show off their breakfast-innovation skillz: there’s Takumi’s “Insalata Frittata” (which is almost so corny it almost comes all the way around to being cool); Megumi’s delectable looking “bite-size oden” (which capitalizes on her nurturing cuisine); Nikumi’s “loco moco donburi” (I loved her look of nervous anticipation as the judges tasted), all the way to Erina’s exquisite Eggs Benedict (made with a dried mullet roe-infused muffin that shimmers like gold and tastes like million bucks).

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Erina is the first to pass, with Takumi right on her heels, and Megumi doing particularly well, still flush with confidence after her near-as-makes-no-difference win against Shino. But Snow White has an odd dish made up of various plain-looking eggs, which doesn’t seem to be popular. And that brings us to Souma, who by episode’s end has served less than ten of his “souffle omelette”, which showed promise but may have fizzled out, as some of his ideas sometimes do (peanut butter squid, anyone?).

Could the pressure of wanting to get better be negatively effecting Souma’s focus and ability to power through the challenges? Is that constant worry he’s not yet good enough stifling his creativity rather than stoking it? It looks like he’s in a very bad way, and he’s on his own. While I’m sure he’ll pull out of it next week, it isn’t the “whether” but the “how” that I’m most interested in; along with what Snow White’s game is.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 12

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Hannah: You know Zane, there wasn’t even a battle in this episode, but I was still bowled over by how much power lay in the deliberations, judgement and, aftermath, along with the surprise resolution that actually served both parties, thus transcending the typical Good Guys Win, Bad Guys Lose formula. A Food Wars episode without a Food War might sound transitory, but it sure didn’t feel that way. Instead, what it felt like was a masterpiece.

Zane: I’m inclined to agree, Han, that was an emotional spin cycle right there! Even with the cookoff concluded, it still had all the elements I’ve loved from previous previous showdowns, what with the highly-detailed analysis of the dish and its unique, metaphorical effect on the alumni-judges. At least in this Shokugeki, 7 > 9!

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Hannah: I like that; and I’m no math whiz, as you know. I also liked how the warm, earthy, nurturing flavor of Megumi’s terrine each evoked a different benevolent deity forthe judges. It spoke to them in different ways, but it spoke to them all, touching their hearts in a way Shinomiya’s simply didn’t.

Zane: Yeah, those Megumi gods were the best! I also appreciated how Megumi decided her best option was to try to put forth the best damn veggie terrine she could, freed of the limitations of Shino’s recette. Her Mature-vs.-Fresh treatment impressed the judges, and also laid the groundwork for the excellent character work to follow.

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Hannah: Was your heart, just warmed by the effect of her food when she’s on her game, suddenly cleaved in two upon the sight of those three coins on Shinomiya’s plate, indicating our heroine’s defeat? Even though I knew this wouldn’t be the end for her or Souma, mine certainly was.

Zane: Absolutely. I also knew Shino’s far more technically proficient, real-world-tested, award-winning cuisine was going to blow Megumi’s earnest but sloppy effort out of the water. I mean, the guy has the Pluspol. The PLUSPOL, fer cryin’ out loud! And yet, the suddenness of the judgement, and the look on Megumi’s face as she realizes she’s done, still had impact.

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Hannah: That brings us to the Deus Ex Doujima [Gin], which turned out not to be what I thought. When he put his coin on Megumi’s plate, breaking the rules of the Shokugeki, I thought we were in for a predictable-ish 12 Angry Men scenario in which he convinces the other judges to change their votes one by one. What happened instead was…much better.

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Zane: It was…it so was! Last week Doujima opined that Shino was holding back against a student, and now we see why: he graduated from Totsuki, moved to France, and became the chef-owner of a restaurant, i.e. got to the top so frikkin’ quickly, he finds himself at the top of a precipice, unsure of his next move.

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Hannah: You gotta stop agreeing with me…it’s kinda freaking me out. Anyway. His stagnation is regression. He’s moved forward so forcefully by sheer will and talent, he’s left the heart behind…a heart he finds when he finally takes a bite of Megumi’s cooking.

I’m glad to see the tripartite Megumi-deities show up again, but I’m even more impressed that rather than a goofy ridiculous fantasy played for laughs, which is often how people react to Souma’s food, Megumi’s food creates a pang of nostalgia for Shinomiya, transporting him back to a simpler, safer time, before he was on a “knife’s edge.”

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Zane: It’s a beautiful memory, to be sure. And as you say, the other judges don’t change their votes. Doujima puts his coin on Megumi’s plate, followed by Shino himself. He scoffed at Doujima’s apparent “pity vote” for the loser, but now sees that the power of Megumi’s food must be acknowledged. …Then Hinako, who isn’t even a judge, puts a 500-yen piece (these guys are rich, after all!) on the plate, making the Shokugeki a tie. The rules are bent, but Shino not only approves of the bending, but is a dang part of it.

Hannah: The flashback of Shinomiya with Hinako and the others gives us a glimpse into how far back these guys go, and how they continue to want to look out for him. Doujima allows this shokugeki because he sensed Shinomiya was in a rut and crafted an opportunity to show, not tell, him what he was missing; what he lost sight of: caring for the customers. Showing hospitality, of which Megumi is apparently the goddess, at least in her class. Shinomiya found a way forward, while Megumi found her strength.

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Zane: Well said. I also enjoyed the little scene between Megumi and Souma on their way back to the hotel room. Free from the oppressive concrete and stainless steel of the basement kitchen, they now walk in a cool, soothing night, a great weight lifted. Megumi no knows without a doubt that Souma is a good person, someone she wants to keep cooking with for a long time yet, and thanks him for helping her get that opportunity.

Hannah: Yes, if it weren’t for his reckless gambit, she’d be packing her bags for home. But to his credit, Souma doesn’t take credit; he only provided a nudge—breaking through the light mesh of Shinomiya’s unfairness—in order to bust through the brick wall and inspire both the judges and the chef who would’ve expelled her, Megumi herself had to rise to the occasion and show what she’s made of…and she did.

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Zane: So, all’s well that ends well! Except when Megumi goes ahead, Souma expresses his intense displeasure with losing, smacking his fist against a wall so hard his friends notice it when he returns to the hotel room. However well things ended, he still drew, rather than beat, Shino, and Doujima saved both their asses. Even as the sous chef, he takes responsibility, and will likely take the draw as a bitter pill of wisdom: as we saw from Shino’s rise, you don’t always win.

Hannah: And that brings us to the midpoint of this awesome show that blends your love of cooking with my love of intense battles. I’m really looking forward to the second half, which I’m sure will be just as entertaining a watch.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 11

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Shinomiya concedes that shokugekis of the type Souma proposes aren’t unprecidented, but like any other shokugeki, they requite the consent of both parties; consent he’s not willing to provide. That would be that, but Doujima Gin, who is running this show and its venue, and Inui decide otherwise.

Gin authorizes an unofficial or “street” shokugeki in the basement kitchen of the resort annex. If Souma and Megumi wins, they’re both still in Totsuki. If they lose, they’re both expelled.

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Not suprisingly, Megumi feels responsible for putting Souma in this predicament, but he won’t have her blaming herself for a choice he made. He says he made it because it’s not time for her to drop out yet, but the unspoken reason is, of course, she’s a dear friend who he couldn’t stand by and watch get unfairly washed out. They’re in this together now, because that’s what he wanted.

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When the contestants, Gin, and four other alumai judges assemble in the basement kitchen, Gin sets the rules: two hours, veggies leftover from the day’s training sessions, and most importantly, Megumi is the head chef who will be going up against Shinomiya. Souma will be a sous chef, nothing more, who must follow Megumi’s vision without alteration.

The reason for this is both plain and very welcome: if Souma is in charge and wins the shokugeki for Megumi, she’ll remain a tagalong, and continue to need to be saved by him. By putting her in the chef’s seat, Gin is hoping this shokugeki is the crucible through which they’ll finally see what Megumi’s made of, and whether Souma is justified in believing it’s worth un-expelling her.

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I loved the playful banter and horseplay between Gin, Shino, and the judges; all of whom are old classmates, if not friends who’ve known each other a long time. They also keep each other in check, the same way Aldini’s more reasonable brother kept him in check as his character was built, so not even Shino can become a full-blown villain.

Of course, the fact she’s going up against a seasoned, up-and-coming French chef-owner straight up freezes Megumi, until Souma slaps her hands together with his, a trick that always stops his hands from shaking, but require two people to do it. The message is clear: he’s here for her, only this time he’s behind her rather than the other way around.

She needn’t be concerned about her opponent or what he’s making, all she can do is put everything she has into her dish, using the skills she’s honed since she used to watch her mom cook as a young girl. Watching her stride proudly into battle with Souma as her trusty sidekick was a great image.

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Also a great image? DAT CHOU FARCI. Honestly, I’ve had cabbage rolls before, some delicious, some gross, but never anything like Chef Shino prepares. The judges put on a clinic in gastronomic know-how in analyzing his dish, and the animators do a great job whetting my own appetite by showing us the intricate step-by-step of its preparation.

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The foodgasm fantasy of the week is the four judges playing off of the fact it tastes like Shino put a spell on his dish, turning them into a magical girl team, complete with Gin in drag. I’ll admit, I’d probably watch a couple episodes of that show!

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Alas, this battle is not settled this week; in fact, we only catch a passing glimpse of the fruits of Chef Tadokoro’s labors, though we saw that she and Souma are like a well-oiled machine, with him supporting her in everything without making his own tasks suffer or taking over. You can literally see Megumi’s confidence surge as they cook, but she gets nervous again when it’s time to present.

Again, Souma gives her the push she needs to approach the alumni with her dish: an elaborate and delectable-looking terrine, this time not limited by Shino’s recette. We won’t know how they feel about it until next week, but we do know one thing: Shino held back, believing he could beat Megumi without breaking out his signature dish (or food bankai, if you will.) While Gin doesn’t think it likely Shino will lose, he does wonder if Shino’s arrogance is his Achilles Heel.

My take? It probably is. If Megumi really put everything she is and has into that terrine, while Shino just kinda half-assed things (at least by his standards), I believe the judges will be able to taste the difference.

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