She and Her Cat: Everything Flows – 01

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This is the first installment of a compact four-part short-form anime, and the title says it all: this is about a female junior college student and her fluffy black pet cat. Specifically, the story unfolds from Daru the cat’s perspective, and he does the narrating (In a nice bonus, Hana-Kana is the voice of the girl).

Aside from the furry narrator, the show is highly naturalistic, with both time and space flowing much as it does in our own world. But by giving Daru a human voice (which the girl doesn’t hear, by the way), we are told that his love is not unconditional: there’s actually a good reason he loves his owner.

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When we first enter their lives, the girl’s roommate is moving out to be with her boyfriend, leaving her alone with an apartment she can’t afford. She also struggles to find a job to pay the bills, and doesn’t consider moving back home an option. She’s not always happy and chipper. Sometimes, she’s downright depressed.

While Daru thinks there’s nothing he can do to quell her pain, I suspect that’s not true, because pets are a great comfort to their owners. What I’m not so sure about is whether my own cat or my roommates respect or love us for working hard and standing up straight and going out to face the world everyday (more likely they love us mostly because we feed them!) However, Daru does love his owner for those very reasons.

In any case, this was a short, sweet look into the life of a girl and her cat. A heartwarming little watch if you own or like said small furry idiosyncratic carnivorous mammals. Oh, and this may interest Hannah: The girl doesn’t get eaten by monsters at the end…so there’s that!

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Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 06

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When Kougami Yuriko’s friends encourage her to ask Shoutarou to be her date for the Asahikawa Summer Festival, she has her usual coffee with Shou, but all he talks about is Sakurako-san. When she shows up to the festival resplendent in her yukata, but alone, one wonders why she didn’t press. Does she believe Shou is out of her reach, preferring the older, more amazing Sakurako, or is she just not that concerned about pursuing Shou, or anyone else, that way?

As she spots all of the lovey-dovey couples holding hands, seemingly rubbing in her face that which she lacks, she also spots a grandmother and child, and seems comforted and less lonely. It’s not that she doesn’t like the idea of walking hand-in-hand with someone she likes; but she’s more concerned with becoming someone who can protect those she cares about.

Then she spots an ethereal-looking woman with dark black hair throwing an envelope over the bridge, who then vanishes, leaving the envelope behind. Suddenly has on her hands something more interesting, at least to her, than a date. She has a mystery. Then she turns around and encounters another lonely heart, Isozaki-sensei, from her school.

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The envelope contains a ring, and Isozaki opens it to learn more. They determine it’s a synthetic diamond solitaire ring; most likely a wedding ring. The note inside asks forgiveness “for going to him.” Yuri is worried the woman was trying to throw herself off the bridge along with the ring, and wants to find her so she can help in some way. Izosaki…doesn’t.

The two butt heads, with Izosaki standing up for logic, analysis, rights and responsibilities, while Yuri cites human nature to not someone to die, and do whatever they can to prevent it. As the day turns to night, Izosaki considers taking off, but when he hears how serious Yuri is, he’s loath to leave her alone lest she get in trouble, so he agrees to look for the woman with her one more hour.

It’s strange; throughout their interaction, I couldn’t stop thinking how much more I’d enjoy it if it was Shoutarou by her side rather than Izosaki. The two have a good rapport, even if it doesn’t seem likely to turn to romance, and I think that Shou would be on the same page as Yuri. At the same time, the philosophical conflict that occurs from her and Izosaki can’t be discounted.

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Still, one gets the feeling Yuri would prefer the counsel of a professional investigator like Sakurako, so she keeps calling Shoutarou (since Saku doesn’t have a cell, Shou’s her only means of reaching her). When Saku finally appears, it’s by chance, on the very bridge where the mystery first began. Since Saku got lost in thought, she also got lost, which makes Shou and Utsumi have to send out a lost child address for her, which she’s not pleased about.

It’s here where Shou gets scolded by an angry Yuri for leaving his phone in Saku’s office, keeping her from contacting Saku earlier. Is Yuri masking her anger for not being able to spend the day with Shou, or is Shou really nothing more than a conduit to Saku that didn’t come through? The truth seems somewhere in between those extremes.

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Anyway, once Sakurako gets her hand on the ring, she determines it is not in fact a wedding ring, but a mourning ring, and the diamond itself was made with carbon from the bones of a departed loved one. She surmises that the woman sought to toss the ring away because she found another love. Sakurako then tosses the ring in the drink, and the fireworks commence.

It isn’t at all the conclusion Yuri expected, but she’s glad she worked hard and didn’t give up. It no doubt gives her strength and hope that not giving up on other things—or people—could also lead to good things.

I’ll be honest: this was very close to another 9 to me, and it all comes down to Yuri. I’d never have guessed in the first episode that she’d be anything other than a side character and (unrequited) love interest for Shou, but she’s become far more than that.

She’s complex, and feels like a real person, with ideals and beliefs and shortcomings that don’t always fall into easy categories. She’s both admiring and jealous of Sakurako. She’s chummy and warm, but also tentative with Shou. And as I said above, she’s in no hurry to define herself as one half of some couple so much as she wants to know she can stand on her own two feet.

It’s Sakurako’s show, and once she shows up she more or less dominates all the screen time she occupies. But I definitely wouldn’t mind more Yuri here and there.

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Working!!! 3 – 11

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Now this is more like it: a Working!!! with focus and progress, which deftly balances the long-awaited development of long-standing serial plot with the show’s usual slice-of-life and character-derived comedy. Long has the shy Satou suffered in Wagnaria’s kitchen, unable to properly express his feelings for Yachiyo. Long has the sheltered, isolated Yachiyo suffered in Wagnaria’s dining room, unable to properly express her feelings for Satou.

This week, building on their birthday date (which ended awkwardly), the couple finally manages to come together and say what needs to be said without any misunderstandings or narrative half-measures. After nearly three seasons, we’re finally thrown a whole bone, as the show surrenders and breaks the status quo of these two’s relationship. And I couldn’t be happier.

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Neither could Yachiyo, it would seem, as she practically buries the twee Popura in her Flowers of Happiness. Then those flowers wilt when Kyoko refuses to let her make any more parfaits or other treats for her, showing this transition isn’t without difficulties. But this is merely Kyoko trying too hard to get out of the way of Satou.

While he’s not happy about Kyoko being such a force in Yachiyo’s life, the fact is he fell for the Yachiyo who loves and admires Kyoko, and even if a lot of things will change now that he and Yachiyo are dating, Yachiyo making Kyoko parfaits and talking about Kyoko to him all the time don’t have to go away.

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In the light of what turns out to be a fairly harmless transition (except to Satou’s stress-sensitive stomach, for which he takes off two weeks), Kyoko lifts the co-worker dating ban, with a very encouraging eye towards Takanashi, knowing full well his feelings for Inami. In fact, now that the seemingly impossible (Satou and Yachiyo dating) has occured, it opens up the possibility the show could end with Takanashi figuring out what to do about Inami, as Satou did. Whether he will remains up in the air, as for now he dresses in drag as “Kotori-chan.”

As for Satou and Yachiyo, they remain painfully adorable in every scene they’re in together, especially now that the air has been cleared and there are no more secrets about who love whom: they both love each other, and it’s magnificent. Of course, Yachiyo is still new to many of the ways of the world, and ends up getting lost in the dark on her way to Satou’s apartment, but the fact she’s always carrying a katana offers her some protection from unsavory elements.

I also appreciate that after Yachiyo cooks dinner for Satou, and there are no options for her to get home at the late hour, she simply spends the night, taking Satou’s bed while he takes the floor. There’s a lovely casual practicality to it. I just wish we could have gotten a glimpse of the two talking in the dark before drifting off to sleep.

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Working!!! 3 – 10

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Souta and Kozue both have dreams about unpleasant experiences with their infamous mother Shizuka this week. Souta remembers being dressed as a girl against his will (perhaps a reason he has a fetish for cute things) while Kozue laments that her mother never remembers her name (perhaps a reason she drinks so much). However, she has a couple of friends who care about her (even if they have trouble always dealing with her) in Mitsuki and Youhei.

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The reason both siblings dream of their mother is that she’s apparently on her way to visiting her children after an untold amount of time away working. She reminds me of Chitoge’s mother, only we find out a lot less about her other than the fact she’s extremely busy and powerful and she seems to have a unique way of messing with her kids, from laughing at Kazue’s marriage, divorce, and reconciliation, to making Izumi cook despite protests she’ll die, to persistently forgetting Kozue, the middle child, even exists.

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While there still may be a part of her that still wants Souta in women’s clothing (and indeed, he’s dressed in drag independently for various reasons throughout Working’s run), his primary concern is that she’s found out he likes a girl, and he worries she’ll put said girl (Inami) under undue scrutiny. He vows to protect Inami no matter what, but his mixed reactions to her (bouncing his head off a wall, then walking her home with their hands closer together) continue to confuse Inami. One of these days, these two are going to figure it out. But then again, maybe they never will. Still, any glimmer of progress is appreciated.

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Koufuku Graffiti – 12 (Fin)

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This is it. The Final Battle. Who lives? Who dies? Who ends up in whose bed? Who is able to exact their revenge, and who ends up burning in hellfire for all eternity?

Ehh, this isn’t that kind of show. Nor did it need to be. When I look back on Koufuku Graffiti, I’ll remember a warm, happy, and taste bud-enticing show; the feel-good show of Winter 2015.

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Don’t worry, all of this is in Kirin’s dad’s head.

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Hey, it’s 2016 in this show. We’ve been watching the future.

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Ryou and Kirin pass their exams, so they’ll be going to the same high school as Shiina next year, along with a couple other classmates who are eager to befriend Kirin, who never had a thing to worry about in the friendsmaking department because she’s kind and sweet and makes a cute pok-pok sound when she walks.

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Then, terror strikes in the form of a depraved house invader. Oh wait, it’s just Akira, trying to surprise Ryou and succeeding, but in the wrong way, getting a bonked nose for her trouble.

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Akira actually has a nice gift for Ryou, who’s thinking a lot about her grandmother, who was there for her opening ceremony, which feels like yesterday. The gift is an apron made from her grandma’s apron, so in a way, whenever she wears it, it will be like cooking with her grandma, or as Kirin maturely puts it, she can look forward to making new memories rather than simply dwelling on past ones.

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Ryou decides to christen the apron by preparing the same meal her grandma made to celebrate her entry into middle school three years back. It’s the same meal she made in the first episode, but it tasted bad to her back then because she was alone and still thinks it’s mising something when she tastes it alone.

That changes when Kirin arrives with all her luggage and samples the meal, and deems it one of Ryou’s best yet. Even Ryou notices an improvement in flavor after Kirin arrives, proving that food really does taste better when it’s shared.

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Everything on the shelf above the sink stayed in the exact same position all those years. That’s some precision right there.

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Ryou is in for one last twist when Kirin explains all her luggage and mentions movers are on the way…because she’s moving in with her, something neither Kirin nor Akira ever told Ryou, though they thought they did.

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Ryou seems to have a problem with this, though it’s more about being left out of the decision while everyone else from Shiina to Akira to Kirin’s parents know about it, yet she doesn’t; for all we know even Yuki downstairs knows! But now that Ryou knows too, she’s happy Kirin is moving in, Kirin cries tears of joy and relief, and everyone helps her move in.

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Looks kind of like Laputa, doesn’t it?

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Ryou started out alone, with her important parents far away, her aunt busy at work, and her grandmother dearly departed. But now her home is full of life and love and energy, and even when everyone leaves, Kirin will still be there. Ryou looks like she couldn’t be happier.

As the credits roll, we get an epic supercut of every foodgasm in the show, putting into perspective just how much delicious food was stuffed into the last twelve episodes, and getting me that much more excited for another cooking show, Shokugeki no Souma this Spring. I’ll also have to track down some yellowtail and daikon!

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Koufuku Graffiti – 11

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As exams draw nearer, quick and easy meals are the order of the day. While Ryou would probably prefer to spend all day cooking and eating, she and Kirin need to study.

It’s fortuitous then, that Ryou’s mysterious parents send her her second care package, which is full of packaged ramen in various flavors. There’s nothing like opening a big box full of food!

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The package has Kirin, whom we know has had a tenuous relationship with adults anyway, thinking about Ryou’s parents. What kind of people are they? What do they do? Kirin’s mom doesn’t have straight answers, but Kirin’s imagination runs wild when she hears they wanted to get Ryou a bodyguard. Satou Rina only gets a couple of lines as these alternate, bitchier Ryous, but she makes the most of them.

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Ryou has been a little lonely lately because her mom isn’t around to make late night study snacks for her, so the timing of the package is perfect. Also, Kirin knows how to make tasty ramen, so Ryou has a snack made for her after all, and it’s predictably that much more delicious because it was made with love.

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At the bottom of the ramen box is a secret letter specifically addressed to Kirin from Ryou’s mom; Kirin’s stealth crawl to a private place to read it is pretty dang cute, and the “top secret” label on the envelope, along with Ryou’s mom’s standing offer to provide both girls with bodyguards, helps fuel Kirin’s intense curiosity.

Ryou doesn’t help by calling her parents “two of the most important people in the world.” Still, the fact their true occupations remain secrets is a fun little running gag. At the end of the day, whatever they do, they made a good daughter.

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In part two the exams are even closer, and Ryou and Kiri visit a shrine to pray for good luck and success. Then Shiina drops a bomb: she already got accepted into the same high school they’re trying to get into. On the one hand, both I and they are relieved they’ll remain together. But Kirin in particular feels miffed that Shiina was so secretive about it.

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More to the point, the fact Shiina has already achieved what Ryou and Kirin have yet to gives her an almost godlike status in their eyes, but when she says an exam is a solitary battle, and one has to rely on oneself and not others or gods, the blinding light of her wisdom is powerful to behold…but Kirin isn’t so sure Shiina’s 100% right about that.

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Case in point, when Shiina opens up a huge case of beautiful-looking pork cutlet sandwiches—resembling a suitcase full of money, only tastier—and everyone digs in to the deliciousness, they react in the usual way, but with a cut to Tsuyuko infusing the sandwiches with plenty good luck aura, proving Kirin was correct: Shiina did have help during exams, because every time she took a bite into the sandwiches, she remembered the person who made them, and felt less lonely in her task.

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Shiina decides to pay it forward by learning how to make the good luck sandwiches and providing them to Ryou and Kirin for lunch as they head to their exams, showing that while she can be cold and stoic under certain circumstances, there’s still a sweet, caring person within who asserts herself in the clutch. I’ll admit I missed Uchiki Yuki this week, but in return we got lots of awesome Shiina, so I can’t complain.

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Koufuku Graffiti – 10

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We were a little confused at first by the new face of Uchiki Yuki (Iguchi Yuka; or Index to Ryou’s Railgun), but this was a beautiful episode about anxiety, loneliness, and the power of pizza to tackle both.

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With Winter in its last throes but Spring yet to bloom (much like the weather where I am), Kirin is worried about a lot of things, from getting into high school to making friends there, to the state of the country’s crops and the effect of environmental damage on the earth.

After a horror movie doesn’t help Kirin’s mood, Ryou remembers she left the futons out on the balcony, and that’s when the two of them hear a depressing phone conversation from Ryou’s shy, sad, lonely neighbor directly below them.

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When one of Ryou’s futons slips off the balcony, it takes Kirin with it, which turns out to be a fateful incident. Ryou was ready to stop eavesdropping and go inside, but Kirin’s spill means they have no choice but to interact with Yuki, and vice-versa.

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Because we’re dealing with three uncommonly nice people, the earnest apologies fly where insults might infect the interactions of lesser humans. Ryou and Kirin both notice Yuki gets so stuck in her thoughts she creates and reacts outwardly to entire narratives she cooks up in there.

Kirin sees the same anxiety in Yuki that she herself is feeling, and that anxiety, while negative on its own, becomes a positive because it brings these two together. It also shows Yuki that if someone as bright and spunky as Kirin can feel the same things she can, she suddenly doesn’t feel so alone.

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A ring at the doorbell comes; it’s a pizza delivery girl. And boy, this might just be the tastiest pizza I have ever seen animated. In fact, it is. But while she obviously doesn’t skimp when it comes to quality, there’s still a pointed sadness to Yuki’s practicality: the pizza’s toppings are split four ways so she won’t get sick of it even if she eats it for all three meals—which she’s been doing for three weeks.

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Yuki offers the pizza to Ryou and Kirin for their trouble, but Ryou has a far better idea—an idea borne out of her experience sharing food with others, something she’s still rather new to herself: she invites Yuki upstairs so they can eat the pizza together.

As if the pizza wasn’t tasty-looking enough, Ryou and Kirin sweeten the deal with their usual poetic, over-the-top reactions to enjoying food, a display that Yuki finds both intriguing and uplifting.

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Ryou insists Yuki have a slice herself, assuring her it will taste better if she eats with them. Yuki gives in, and sure enough, she has the same kind of experience we’ve come to expect from Ryou, Kirin, and Shiina. In fact, eating the pizza with them brings out a whole other side of her personality. She doesn’t hold her tongue when it comes to describing the deliciousness.

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The unexpectedly joyful evening, along with Ryou and Kirin’s invitation for home-cooked meal in the future, infuses Yuki with a fresh courage and outlook on her situation, which she uses to bravely face an orientation the next day.

Meanwhile, Ryou learned that a very nice person lives close by whom she should hang out more with, and Kirin learned that as long as she has as a full stomach, she too can face whatever the future brings.

As for me, in all honesty I would have ordered a fancy pizza from a gourmet pizzeria nearby, but it’s St. Patrick’s Day and I’ve corned beef on the stove. Oh well; there’s always tomorrow!

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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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