Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 20 – The Lunch Mooch

Whatever the precise nature of Yuna D. Kaito’s goals, he seems pretty confident he’ll be able to pull them off. And can you blame him? Sakura still doesn’t have the slightest clue she’s being targeted, let alone how or why, and is content to continue living life as if nothing’s amiss.

She spends the morning making lunches for herself, Syaoran, Yukito and Kero for the day. I will say for the record she makes making rolled omelets look way too easy; aside from the fact those pans aren’t cheap, her method requires a lot of practice and a lot of failure.

Her date with Syaoran is replaced by a visit to the sprawling villa of Masaki, her mother’s grandfather, who apparently has something he simply must give her before departing abroad the next day. Syaoran accompanies her, and he and Sakura bicker over whose bento is better (each arguing for each other, not themselves, naturally).

When Grampa Masaki is alone with Syaoran, he comments on just how similar Sakura is to her mother; someone whose constant outward happiness and joie-de-vivre makes everyone around them happier. Meanwhile, Kero and Yue confer on the growing powers of both Sakura and Touya, while Kero receives a message from Eriol in England: a magic circle which both Kero and Yue replicate.

While wandering around the vast estate looking for someone to make more tea, Sakura comes upon her mother’s bedroom, which shines as brightly as the sun. Sakura uses Record to view a montage of moments from when her mother inhabited the room, but then the projection of her mom turns to her, puts her hand on her cheek, and warns her not to go any farther, lest she not be able to return.

Sakura and Akiho end up in the clock dream again, in which Sakura knows who the cloaked figure is (though doesn’t say it) while Akiho recognizes the cloak as the one passed down in her family. Yuna and Momo converse on how “the power of the dream is growing”, and much faster than originally thought. Kero and Yue arrive in England, where Eriol is finally ready to tell them what he’s learned, and it’s not good: “the one thing [he] feared the most is becoming reality”.

As confident as Yuna and Momo appear to be so far, and as oblivious as Sakura appears to be (it’s particularly unnerving to see her dip so far into her powers she becomes woozy and has to lie down), but she has no shortage of powerful friends, from Kero, Yue, and Eriol to Touya, who doubtless won’t hesitate to use his growing power to protect his sister. And then there’s always the slight possibility Yuna’s intentions aren’t even sinister…

Orange – 02

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I never like awarding 10s and RWHL certifications willy-nilly, but I was compelled to give this episode the score it deserved, which was, to me, the highest score possible. This episode was an emotional roller coaster that sucked me in and wouldn’t let go. It contained no less than All The Feels. And it made missing the next episode, or indeed the rest of the run of the show, seem like as big a mistake as Naho not listening to her future letters.

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Naho is a good girl. She has a gentle, generous heart, but she also lacks confidence, and sometimes isn’t able to say or do what she wants. The letters she’s getting say in no uncertain terms that if the behaviors that come naturally to her in the present persist unchanged, Kakeru will be out of her life in ten years. Naho is currently falling in love with Kakeru, so she really doesn’t want that to happen.

So when the letter tells her to make Kakeru a lunch, she plans to do so. She doesn’t tell him when it seems like the best time to do so, hesitating until the latest possible moment in the day, and only after her friends tell Kakeru she makes her own lunches and Kakeru “jokes” about wanting her to make one.

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Saying it was just a joke, and worrying about “bothering” Kakeru by foisting her unworthy slop upon him (well, she’s not that harsh on herself), vex Naho terribly. Interestingly, her thought process mimics her mom’s.

Initially, she casts my heart into the cellar by deciding against making a lunch for him. But thankfully she reconsiders, and gets “fired up” making the best damn lunch Kakeru will ever have tasted.

For a second, I thought she was making lunches for everyone to provide cover and hold back rumors of favoratism. Of course, to all her friends, including Suwa, who likes her, they already know the score with her and Naho.

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But making the lunch is only half the battle for Naho. She must inform Kakeru she’s done so, and deliver the meal to him at the proper time. The time between when she nervously greets him to the lunch bell is tortuously long, as demonstrated by the montage of various teachers giving lectures intercut with quick shots of Naho and the bag containing the lunch.

But when that lunch bell rings…she CHOKES! My heart, having just started back up the stairs, ends up in the sub-basement. I was literally banging my fist on the coffee table, furious by her self-defeating inaction. But then, she waits after school for Kakeru to be done soccer practice with Suwa. And again, Kakeru gives Naho the fresh opening she needs, offering to walk home with her—and only her.

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Naho engages in idle conversation meant to learn more about Naho in basic terms: where she lives; what she does when she gets home, her hobbies. Naho’s truthful answers are nothing flashy, but Kakeru still seems to enjoy them.

Then Naho starts to ask him questions, but gets more specific…like where he was and what he was doing those two weeks he was absent. Because Kakeru has feelings for Naho, he wants her to know, but also clearly exhibits some courage of his own by coming out and saying it:

The very day of their opening ceremony—the day the future letter warned Naho not to invite Kakeru to hang out with them—his mother committed suicide. With that, my heart busted through the floor of the sub-basement and into a subterranean aquifer.

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At this point, even though they were sitting down and Kakeru clearly expressed his hunger, Naho had not yet revealed she had made a lunch for him. But by hearing Kakeru tell her something so intimate and sad, and realizing what not listening to the letters did, Naho finally summons the courage she needs to present the lunch to him.

He accepts it with elation, having hoped she’d followed through on fulfilling his desire, even though he called it a joke at the time. My heart starts another long descent as she finds her footing, promising she’ll make him lunch every day from now on, and give him wake-up calls if he needs them, or any of the other things a parent does until you find someone you love who does them instead.

Returning to her letters, details emerge: Kakeru dies in an accident in the Winter of his seventeenth year, and she and the others always regretted not saving him when, as her future self sees it, they could have. Well, that’s that; Naho WILL save him, no matter what.

GO NAHO. (Sorry, Suwa.)

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Sansha Sanyou – 05

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Sonobe adds to her collection of cute high school part-timers as Hayama and Futaba fill in for an exhausted Yoko-sama. In the process, Hayama learns her outwardly sweet personality works wonders for customer service, as does Futaba’s encyclopedic knowledge of pastries.

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When Hayama’s sister stops by wanting to bake sweets with her, she is politely shoo-ed off, but somehow gets one of her home remedies to the back room for Yoko to eat. The next day Yoko is full of energy, but perhaps too full, as she did not sleep last night and is still eerily alert, almost robotic. The mind boggles over what was in that purple sludge!

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The three friends learn they can work together at the cafe just as amicably, but when Kondou twists Nishiyama to come with her to the cafe, the Hayama-Nishiyama feud continues…something Sonobe tries to perpetuate for her own entertainment at every turn, invoking the wrath of Yamagi, who would prefer if she not play games with people’s lives in such a way.

The ensuing duel between Sonobe and Yamagi freaks out Nishiyama, but also creates an opening through which Hayama offers her pink-haired frenemy an olive branch: treats she made for her beloved cat.

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The next day, Nishiyama falls into Sonobe’s web, is put in a frilly pink maid uniform, and made to work a shift for the day; an experiment to see if she really can do everything Hayama can do better. Hayama does not revel in Nishiyama’s embarrassment, but when things get busy, she along with Futaba and Yoko, offer help with customers in their plainclothes.

Nishiyama leaves not quite sur ehow she ended up working at Sonobe’s cafe, but happy she has more treats for her kitty, and a little more money to go towards an SLR camera. As for Sonobe, she was able to collect many a photo of Nishiyama for use in promotional materials…or blackmail!

Another fine, breezy episode with some welcome sharp edges to the soft-focus pastel aesthetic, and a fairly genuine look at how frenemies are made and maintained.

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Sansha Sanyou – 04

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Sansha Sanyou is proving a consistently enjoyable low-effort watch because just when you think it’s getting too cute and soft and fluffy, its sharper, more sardonic or absurd sides spring up.

One such absurdity is the cat photo rivalry between Serina and Teru, which is called off when they both admit their cats are cute. The thing is, both are only imagining the cats are there, so they’re only petting air!

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Another is Yamagi, who could easily turn into a nuisance, but his preternatural stick-fetching skills, combined with the fact you never know from what angle he’ll pop up from, creates an amusing tension between him and the girls, who really don’t like it when he goes all ninja on them.

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For all its cynical or buzz-killing moments, SanSan also has a few tender ones mixed in, like when Hayama and Futaba join Yoko for her first visit to a fast food joint, thus fulfilling one of her dreams, which includes sitting in the McD’s “talking endlessly about vague and silly things!”

The joke is, they end up talking about isn’t vague or silly at all, with Hayama and Futaba learning that Yoko’s mother is deceased and her Dad is out in the world somewhere trying to get back what he lost. They re-double their devotion to her, assuring her they’ll be there should she ever need anything. It’s very sweet and unexpected.

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We return to silliness when Yoko’s young “betrothed” Yu shows up to re-establish his intent to marry Yoko someday, even if there’s no official arrangement between their families and Yoko has moved on.

We also meet Futaba’s cousin Sakura, who is cute…and knows it, not being the slightest bit modest in the fact she’s in the upper percentiles and has planned out her entire life, including her post-idol career and overseas retirement (a dream brilliantly visualized as an isometric RPG, complete with the recently-ruined Yoko in a wasteland far below Sakura).

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Yu seems like a well-cultured, polite, kind young man, but informing Yoko & Co. he’s still loaded was a warning sign of another side to him, which we see when he cruelly mocks Yamagi for “pretending to still be her servant.”

The truth is, Yamagi still is her servant regardless of whether he’s paid. And there’s honor and nobility in that Yu clearly lacks. Which is why I’m glad Sakura gloms onto Yu when the two cross paths. Those two twerps deserve each other!

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Finally, in a segment that wouldn’t be out of place in Koufuku Graffiti, Futaba finally proves to a dubious Teru and an eager Yoko that she has legit cooking chops, and isn’t just an eater. Yoko attempts to cook the splendid Wagyu beef Yu gifted to her, but ends up ruining it.

Enter Futaba, who treats the beef with all due care and respect and flashes her home cooking skills. By the end of it, the previously skeptical Teru is calling her “mom”, and Yoko is over the moon for having had her first meal with friends at her house, which likely feels more like a home now. She also vows to improve her cooking skills, lest future quality ingredients make the ultimate sacrifice.

Lots of variety this week, with diverse sources of laughs, and a good balance between cutesiness, cynicism, and warm sentimentality.

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Sansha Sanyou – 03

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A typhoon descends on the town, and with it comes a Marry Poppins-style maid flying in with a brolly…or is she simply riding the wind? In any case, when Futaba mentions she’s out of spending money and considering a part-time job, Yoko decides she’ll look for one too. Strangely, Yamagi is missing from his usual spot in the bushes.

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That leads girls to a quaint cafe called Secret Garden, where they find what looks at first like a murder scene—if this was Danganronpa, that is. Turns out it’s just a combination of jam and fatigue. The maid is Sonobe, and she used to work in Yoko’s household and is all too happy to give her former master a job.

As for Yamagi, he is not enthralled about the idea of making Yoko-sama work, and ends up fighting Sonobe with baking utensils. Naturally, Futaba and Hayama are frightened by the sheer weirdness of Yoko’s former servants.

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Still, the next day Yoko is working there, and to her friends’ surprise, not dressed as a maid; cosplay is just Sonobe’s hobby (though I was surprised to see the tomboy Futaba wearing a long skirt).

Sonobe shows off this hobby again the next day when she comes to Yoko’s school dressed in their school uniform, which she designed and carefully made the night before from memory.

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Despite her looks, Yoko estimates Sonobe to be in her thirties, so it makes sense for her to want to use her youthful looks to continue being in proximity to girls whose age she resembles, that she might “draw youthful energy” or some such from them.

To that end, she kills three birds with one stone by making sure Yoko’s new friends are taking care of her, delivering some mayo-heavy lunch, and using her disguise-not-disguise to hand out flyers for her cafe to Yoko’s schoolmates.

Sonobe’s definitely an odd duck, and her presence infused a bit of magical realism into these week’s proceedings, but we got a little too much of her this week; I prefer the focus to be on our reliable affable core trio.

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Sansha Sanyou – 02

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Nicknames, olive branches, and sisters who are opposites – San-San’s second episode covers a lot, but at a gentle yet lively pace. We meet Serina, Hayama’s self-appointed rival, whom Hayama always makes a fool of with the sweetest demeanor possible.

Their verbal sparring is quite good, but so is the truce they reach when Hayama, who beneath the blackness within has a kind heart, offers a kitten to replace Serina’s last cat who died.

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After Yamagi insists Hayama and Futaba refer to his master as “Yoko-sama”, the nickname sticks, and it’s time for Hayama. When Futaba and Yoko learn her first name is Teru, I like how Futaba has a little fun with it before agreeing with Yoko it’s actually a nice name (and it is!).

The one who yells “Teru” in the hall is Teru’s own big sister Kou, who is part-angel, part-airhead, who likes putting strange combinations of health food ingredients into candy.

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The girls end up running into each other in the shopping district, where Yoko shows how serious she is about squeezing every penny (to their embarrassment) and Teru figures out that her (healthy, lucky) sister got on the health food kick in order to ensure her little sister—always sickly and unlucky as a small child—gets proper nourishment.

That doesn’t make her strange onigiri any easier to choke down, but Teru and Yoko choke it down nonetheless. For Yoko, wasting food is an insult and a sin; for Teru, she wants her sister to know she appreciates her care. San-San, like Shounen Maid, is pleasant low-stakes slice-of-life, but edges it out in cast chemistry and comedic pacing.

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Sansha Sanyou – 01 (First Impressions)

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Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back, relax, and watch a show about three colorful characters, voiced by three young, hungry seiyuu, coming together and shooting the breeze about nothing in particular…but mostly food!

That’s what we have in Sansha Sanyou, a minimal-stakes slice-of-life comedy with cute design and crisp, clean visuals that I’m seriously considering as my feel-good pick of the Spring

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As I said, Hayama (blonde class prez with a well-concealed mean streak), Futaba (energetic girl who loves to eat) and Yoko (purple-haired former rich girl struggling with making friends) are all voiced by relatively new, inexperienced actresses (Futaba’s seiyu is a pure rookie).

You can hear their infectiously fresh exuberance in their line delivery, much like Sore ga Seiyu. They also happen to have decent chemistry, comic timing, and range. They’re young, but they’re talented. Their efforts are backed up by appealingly above-average, colorful character design and naturally-flowing dialog that takes some interesting and unexpected turns.

I like how Hayama and Futaba, already good friends, decided to become friends with Yoko just because various random circumstances brought them together, and…well, why not? At the same time, Yoko is working hard to fit into “commoner society” now that she’s no longer super-rich.

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Yoko’s doting worry-wort semi-stalker of a former servant is a nice touch, as is her legitimate elation over receiving freebies, her worries over the cost of everything (hence her bread crusts being her main repast) and her earnest attempts at cooking for her friends, who enjoy the variable results without complaint, as good friends do.

Hayama also shows she’s got a hard edge behind her adorable demeanor, making a challenging classmate cry off-camera then shrugging it off. And while Futaba is the simplest of the three characters, she knows Hayama well and they bounce off each other’s eccentricities nicely.

There’s nothing overly complicated here, and that’s the point. The only question is whether I’ll have enough time to watch it, because it’s definitely good enough to keep.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 10

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Ernesta keeps from Aldy that Rimsy is his limiter, indicating we haven’t seen the limits of his power yet. And while Ayato and Julis walk to Saya and Kirin’s match, they encounter Irene Urzaiz whaling on some nobodies before she turns her attention to Ayato. Her very polite sister Priscilla bails him out this time, but message received: Ayato has yet another powerful opponent gunning for him.

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While I’m sure Saya and Kirin are looking forward to a fight with Allekant’s puppets, this week’s opponents are no sweat, and Ayato and Julis don’t even arrive until the match is long over, when they walk in on a nude Saya is trying in vain to grab a nude Kirin’s boobs.

After another ridiculously quick and easy match against two dolls from Queenvail, Julis (who defeated “Non-Sugar” all by herself) suggests she and Ayato have lunch, then presents the sandwiches she made, then hints at Ayato to reward her fairly by patting her head too, something Ayato didn’t know she wanted.

It’s a cute little scene that underscores how far behind Stella and Ikki these two are in the romance department. Then again every couple has their own pace and rhythms.

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They’re also merely spectators for this week’s main event between Lester and Irene, who we see in action for the first time. Lester and his partner try using the same tired old strategy against Irene: keep moving and wait for her gas-guzzling Ogre Lux to drain her dry.

But that fails when she uses gravity magic that renders Randy unconscious, then sucks the blood of her partner Priscilla to regenerate her power and assault Lester into submission. A Vampire Girl with gravity magic? Pretty sweet combo right there that’s sure to cause headaches for our wonder duo.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 09

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Okay, no more messing around: the long-awaited Phoenix Festa is finally upon us; that is, after the introduction of Irene Urzaiz, a student so badass she’s in school prison. The head of the “Steering Committee” also announces the controversial decision to allow contestants to field alternates (AKA puppets), bringing a grin to Ernesta’s face.

Before Ayato and Julis’ first match, a light lunch is indicated, which is provided in the form of various over-sized rice balls made by Kirin with Saya’s help. Saya is able to glom onto Ayato briefly, and even get her head patted by Ayato like Kirin. Julis, however, does not request to have her head patted, and lets the silver and blue have their fun.

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When lunch is over, it’s Showtime, and Julis has Ayato all to herself. I liked how confidently Julis, used to distant adoration, strutted out to the arena, while Ayato was a lot more nervous, and how she actually flaunted that confidence by acknowledging the cheering masses. She is a famous princess, after all.

Going in, Ayato is hyped as the only Rank #1 fighter in the Festa, and he decides to waste no time demonstrating that, breaking out Ser Veresta and putting on a little show of powering up before dispatching the two opponents (who weren’t even introduced) all by himself, with one swipe.

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But it’s not just a convincing win; everything went according to plan. Ayato’s chains were presented as showmanship rather than a hindrance to his abilities, and his battle time limit was kept secret by keeping the battle short, with the assumption that Julis would step in once he can no longer fight.

Julis also makes sure Ayato knows to be evasive to the press lest they give anything away. This isn’t Julis’ first rodeo; she knows ignorance is their best weapon, while any info their opponents glean is ammunition against them.

That brings us to the next battle, one between two Le Wolfe brothers who each look at least 35 years of age (Why?) and the two combat puppets built by Allekant’s Ernesta and Camilla, a male-female pair named “Aldy” and “Rimsy”, whose dynamic and banter resembles that of their human creators.

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Le Wolfe dudes flash their skills with wind magic and marksmanship, but even with one minute period in which the puppets don’t attack, they can’t put a dent in ’em. The minute is up, and it’s Game Over for the over-aged brothers, as expected.

Those puppets will definitely potentially pose a challenge to our Seidokan pals; I’m thinking Kirin and Saya will face them at some point, while Irene Urzaiz is gunning for Ayato, with orders not to necessarily win her match, but simply to destroy him.

In any case, we’ll see if the show takes us to those faced, named challengers or if Ayato & Co. will have to carve their way through more nobodies before they reach the “bosses.”

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Kekkai Sensen – 11

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In my experience, Kekkai Sensen is at it’s best when it’s balancing the chaos of its setting and characters, with focused, clever, bombastic action setpieces that propel an episode forward. A drawback of the show is its insistence on explaining every last little thing in asides, voiceovers, crawling CRT text and heads-up graphics.

As a result, episodes can end up showing a lot, but still telling too much, or at least more than I really need to know. After a recap last week, I really wanted things to get moving, and they do, but not until some way into the episode. And the forward motion is preceded by flashbacks to White’s life.

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It’s not that I disliked White story of her life, it just felt a little momentum-killing when combined with the recap. There’s too much narrative process and procedure on display; and I had the uncomfortable feeling that all of this was one very large advertisment for further explaining/justifying White’s motivations for betraying Leo for her brother: “She is doing this because of this.”

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And that’s the thing: the family and sibling moments were sweet, and Kugimiya Rie’s dual performance was lovely, but they didn’t feel necessary. I didn’t really need any further explanation for her actions, I already got the gist why she was doing it and felt she had no other choice. The show had already given us subtle, relatively unobtrusive bits and pieces of that past. I didn’t really need all the blanks filled in, especially not now.

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All that being said, once White has finished telling her story and turning on Leo, things do indeed take a satisfyingly dark and dire turn. I’m not sure why White thought to trust the word of the King of Despair, but she believes she’ll get Will back if she helps him get the eyes, probably because, just as she told Will, if he was gone, she wouldn’t know what to do. They are twins, after all, closer than mere siblings.

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Once “Black” starts implementing his plan, which is apparently to cause a Second Collapse, one that Libra will certainly be hard-pressed to stop with people like The MacBeths no longer casting, the show stops explaining things and just shows us a whole bunch of crazy shit going down, all of it set to a soaring classical score that recalled Klaus’ great Prosfair match.

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As Despair grabs Leos eyes and causes city-wide explosions in the midst of a massive Halloween parade, a dejected White pores over Leo’s photos, and remembers why she first started taking photos: to prove she existed when she’s gone.

Looking at Leo’s photos through this lens makes her despair even more, and she asks a suddenly present Sonic to find Leo. As for White herself, she suffers a kind of heart attack, which as Black explains, is part of the spell his parents used to keep her alive through “persistent affection”, and she appears to be at the end of its tether.

In a move I wasn’t expecting, Black takes a gun and shoots her…or does he? With all the camera flashes and the fact there was no audio during the “shot”, part of me wonders if he really shot her. Whatever the case, she, Leo, and all of Hellsalem’s Lot are in big trouble.

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Kekkai Sensen – 10

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This week Libra works with HSLPD to defeat a thousand-strong yakuza mecha incursion, and with LHOS’ help, start to uncover they mystery of Black & White with regards to one of the city’s damaged barriers. White also picks a side—her possessed brother’s—and demands Leo hand over his eyes. And she gets that opportunity because Zapp ate some bad tuna!

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While many of those events sound far more significant to the overarching story, it will come as no surprise to those who have followed Kekkai Sensen thus far that the majority of this episode is spent on the most mundane of those events: the search for lunch that ended with a sushi place Zapp had a bad feeling about from the start. Still, it’s clever non-linear storytelling and yet another opportunity to present how strange even a lunch run can get if you walk in the wrong doors.

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Like Zapp’s bachelor nights filled with victory, defeat, and a girl kicking him out of her place, the show portrays the lunch run in rapid-fire fashion, only like a house of horrors, with a staggering variety of bizarre foods. Even when they locate human-run establishments, they’re either getting blood from extramarital brawl all over the food, or trying to serve rival yakuza stew.

Having to flee from so many establishments takes Leo to his breaking point, hallucinating about a “God of Chow” spouting random (and unhelpful) diet-related slogans, before Leo finally declares they’re receiving “Divine Famishment” as a result of trying to use food to haze newbie Zed O’Brien.

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When they finally end up at Leo’s usual foodbag, where they were in the cold open, we now understand why Leo and Zapp are crying with joy upon receiving their chow. And yet, even then they can’t even take one bite, because the Libra-Yakuza battle blows another hole in the diner, and one of those mechas flattens Leo’s beloved burger.

Yet it takes one more round of narrative calisthenics to get Leo to the hospital before a waiting White: After the battle that interrupted their lunch, they end up at the sushi place, and Zapp ends up so sick he has to go to the hospital. Unfortunately, this development is explained with words on the screen, which somewhat undermines the cleverness of the narrative so far.

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In any case, Leo’s there, White gets him alone in the church, where she very well could have been praying to someone, anyone, for some way out of the unfortunate mess she’s in. But then Black arrives, and it’s time for her to ask for Leo’s eyes, revealing her duplicity.

If White had sat Leo down to explain everything to him, he’d probably understand, but considering how in the dark he is (ironic considering his eyes), this betrayal must sting all the more, especially as it’s being committed by someone he’d come to like as a friend and possibly as something more. Then again, he’s also still convinced she’s a ghost.

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P.S. The preview mentioned a “Special episode” while time-lapsing the whole show so far, which can only mean one thing: A dreaded recap is likely next week. >:(

Girl Friend BETA – 05

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This week’s delicious episode of Girl Friend BETA centers on an entirely new set of students, namely the school’s student council, led by President Amatsu Kanata and Vice President Shinomiya Risa (Hikasa Yoko). The schools in a rather unusual pickle: with the entire cafeteria staff stuck on Easter Island, the cafeteria finds itself stocked with food, but no one to cook, order, or serve. President Amatsu decides the StuCo will take up the challenge and cook for the school in the staff’s stead.

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Amatsu is notorious among the council members below her for being terrible at absolutely everything except making tea, which she’s almost preternaturally good at. She’s also good at suggesting ideas that require an immense amount of work, the bulk of which ends up being done by Shinomiya and the other members, because Amatsu can’t do anything properly and ends up creating more work than had she not lifted a finger at all. But again, when the first morning of training is over, she makes everyone a fantastic cuppa.

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Do not watch this episode on an empty stomach! Between the curry and rice, meat and potatoes, tonkatsu, freshly-made yakisoba bread, udon, and “random” designer bentos, there’s a lot to make one’s mouth water. I for one love cooking, and the episode does a good job showing just how Herculean a task running the cafeteria can be…especially when word gets out the council is kicking ass in there and the number of customers increases.

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Throughout it all, Risa is essentially a very hands-on Executive Chef, handling several orders at a time and keeping the rest of the kitchen running smoothly while making sure Amatsu doesn’t serve anyone raw chicken. At one point when the orders pile up, Risa starts to think she’s in over her head and screams out for help. Amatsu is there in the break room with the perfect cup of Chamomile with honey to calm her nerves.

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And that’s what makes Amatsu the X-factor in the whole operation: Sure, she’s terrible at cooking, recommends dishes that aren’t on the menu, and is generally a nuisance, but the phenomenal tea actually makes a big difference for the makeshift staff throughout the episode; she almost serves as their White Mage. But it’s not just about the tea: Amatsu knows how to rally her troops, set lofty goals, bring out the best in everyone, including Risa, and never ever lose heart. That’s what makes Amatsu a good leader. It’s not really a mystery why she’s the president.

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Toradora! – Bento no Gokui OVA

With his parents out of town, Kitamura’s lunches are being made by his grandmother Mio. His first bento is an elaborate mulit-level box full of finely-made food. Ryuugi sees this as a threat to his housewifing abilities. He answers the challenge with elaborate lunches of his own, but each time his lunches are countered with superior ones by Mio-chan, but he doesn’t give up the fight, even resorting to cooking meals in the classroom. Ultimately, he gives up the fight when Taiga offers him onigiri she herself made, realizing the war was all in his head.

First of all, yowza, has it been a long time since we’ve seen Toradora! It first aired all the way back in October of 2008, after all. Put this into perspective: that was before the Phillies broke the Curse of Billy Penn and before President Obama was even elected. We regarded it at the time as one of our favorite romantic comedies, and still do. Though it falls short of Kare Kano territory, the writing and acting were always top notch, and we quickly grew to love all five of the major characters as they wove in and out of love polygons.

This extra episode is neither a prequel or an epilogue to the series we love, but an incidental outing focusing on Ryuugi’s self-worth. He’s always prided himself on being as close to a perfect housewife as possible, and it shows in how clean an apartment he keeps, and the fact he keeps one-and-a-half women and a parakeet well-fed. He’ll answer any challenge to his culinary primacy, real or percieved. In this case, it’s the latter.

And while this episode doesn’t contain any insight or uncharted territory (everyone is pretty much in default mode here, before things get all dramatic and serious), it does reinforce certain things we know about Ryuugi and Taiga in particular. What made them such a great couple to watch is that they’re always picking one another up, sometimes without even being aware of it. Taiga helps Ryuugi see the forest for the trees. It’s not about what’s in a bento, it’s about who you make it for. Anything will taste good if it has love in it, rather than selfish obsession…and is cooked properly in accordance to food safety standards.


Rating: 3.5